The Beginning Of The End
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By The Numbers: 20 Facts About The Collapse Of Europe That Everyone Should Know

By The Numbers - 20 Facts About The Collapse Of Europe That Everyone Should KnowThe economic implosion of Europe is accelerating.  Even while the mainstream media continues to proclaim that the financial crisis in Europe has been “averted”, the economic statistics that are coming out of Europe just continue to get worse.  Manufacturing activity in Europe has been contracting month after month, the unemployment rate in the eurozone has hit yet another brand new record high, and the official unemployment rates in both Greece and Spain are now much higher than the peak unemployment rate in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  The economic situation in Europe is far worse than it was a year ago, and it is going to continue to get worse as austerity continues to take a huge toll on the economies of the eurozone.  It would be hard to understate how bad things have gotten – particularly in southern Europe.  The truth is that most of southern Europe is experiencing a full-blown economic depression right now.  Sadly, most Americans are paying very little attention to what is going on across the Atlantic.  But they should be watching, because this is what happens when nations accumulate too much debt.  The United States has the biggest debt burden of all, and eventually what is happening over in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece is going to happen over here as well.

The following are 20 facts about the collapse of Europe that everyone should know…

#1 10 Months: Manufacturing activity in both France and Germany has contracted for 10 months in a row.

#2 11.8 Percent: The unemployment rate in the eurozone has now risen to 11.8 percent – a brand new all-time high.

#3 17 Months: In November, Italy experienced the sharpest decline in retail sales that it had experienced in 17 months.

#4 20 Months: Manufacturing activity in Spain has contracted for 20 months in a row.

#5 20 Percent: It is estimated that bad loans now make up approximately 20 percent of all domestic loans in the Greek banking system at this point.

#6 22 Percent: A whopping 22 percent of the entire population of Ireland lives in jobless households.

#7 26 Percent: The unemployment rate in Greece is now 26 percent.  A year ago it was only 18.9 percent.

#8 26.6 Percent: The unemployment rate in Spain has risen to an astounding 26.6 percent.

#9 27.0 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Cyprus.  Back in 2008, this number was well below 10 percent.

#10 28 Percent: Sales of French-made vehicles in November were down 28 percent compared to a year earlier.

#11 36 Percent: Today, the poverty rate in Greece is 36 percent.  Back in 2009 it was only about 20 percent.

#12 37.1 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Italy – a brand new all-time high.

#13 44 Percent: An astounding 44 percent of the entire population of Bulgaria is facing “severe material deprivation”.

#14 56.5 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Spain – a brand new all-time high.

#15 57.6 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Greece – a brand new all-time high.

#16 60 Percent: Citigroup is projecting that there is a 60 percent probability that Greece will leave the eurozone within the next 12 to 18 months.

#17 70 Percent: It has been reported that some homes in Spain are being sold at a 70% discount from where they were at during the peak of the housing bubble back in 2006.  At this point there are approximately 2 million unsold homes in Spain.

#18 200 Percent: The debt to GDP ratio in Greece is rapidly approaching 200 percent.

#19 1997: According to the Committee of French Automobile Producers, 2012 was the worst year for the French automobile industry since 1997.

#20 2 Million: Back in 2005, the French auto industry produced about 3.5 million vehicles.  In 2012, that number dropped to about 2 million vehicles.

One thing that these shocking numbers cannot convey is the tremendous amount of pain that many average Europeans are living through on a daily basis at this point.  To get a peek into what life is like in Greece these days, check out this short excerpt from a recent Bloomberg article

Anastasia Karagaitanaki, 57, is a former model and cafe owner in Thessaloniki, Greece. After losing her business to the financial crisis, she now sleeps on a daybed next to the refrigerator in her mother’s kitchen and depends on charity for food and insulin for her diabetes.

“I feel like my life has slipped through my hands,” said Karagaitanaki, whose brother also shares the one-bedroom apartment. “I feel like I’m dead.”

For thousands of Greeks like Karagaitanaki, the fabric of middle-class life is unraveling. Teachers, salaries slashed by a third, are stealing electricity. Families in once-stable neighborhoods are afraid to leave their homes because of rising street crime.

All over Europe, people that have lost all hope are actually setting themselves on fire in a desperate attempt to draw attention.  Millions of formerly middle class Europeans have lost everything and are becoming increasingly desperate.  Suicide and crime are skyrocketing all over southern Europe and massive street riots are erupting on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning.  Things are going to get even worse for Europe.

Meanwhile, those of us living in the United States smugly look down our noses at Europe because we are still living in a false bubble of debt-fueled prosperity.

But eventually we will feel the sting of austerity as well.  The recent fiscal cliff deal was an indication of that.  Taxes are going up and government spending is at least going to slow down.  It won’t be too long before the effects of that are felt in the economy.

And of course the reality of the situation is that the U.S. economy really did not perform very well at all during 2012 when you take a look at the numbers.  The cold, hard truth is that the U.S. economy has been declining for a very long time, and there are a whole bunch of reasons to expect that our decline will accelerate even further in 2013.

So if you are an American, don’t laugh at what is happening over in Europe at the moment.  We are headed down the exact same path that they have gone, and we are going to experience the same kind of suffering that they are going through right now.

Use these last few “bubble months” to prepare for what is ahead.  At some point this “hope bubble” will disappear and then the time for preparation will be over.

EU Poster Tower Of Babel

A Warning Sign For The World

Any financial system that is based on debt is doomed to fail.  Today, we are living in the greatest debt bubble that the world has ever seen, and if all of a sudden people could not use credit to buy things our economy would immediately ground to a halt.  Unfortunately, no debt bubble can last forever.  When this current debt bubble finally bursts, faith in the financial system is going to disappear, credit is going to freeze up and there is going to be a massive wave of bank failures.  Right now, Greece is a warning sign for the world.  Nobody wants to lend money to Greece, the Greek banking system is dying, one out of every four businesses has already shut down, unemployment is soaring and the Greek economy has now been in recession for five years in a row.  Sadly, the economic implosion in Greece is rapidly accelerating.  The Greek economy shrunk at a 7 percent annual rate during the 4th quarter of 2011.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.  Things were supposed to be getting better in Greece by now.  But instead the Greek depression is getting even worse, and very soon the rest of the world is going to be going through what Greece is currently experiencing.

Unfortunately, most in the mainstream media are treating what is happening in Greece as an “isolated incident” rather than as a very serious warning sign for the world.

Thankfully, there are at least a few reporters out there that are realizing the gravity of the situation.  The following is how one reporter from the New York Times recently described what life is like in Greece now….

By many indicators, Greece is devolving into something unprecedented in modern Western experience. A quarter of all Greek companies have gone out of business since 2009, and half of all small businesses in the country say they are unable to meet payroll. The suicide rate increased by 40 percent in the first half of 2011. A barter economy has sprung up, as people try to work around a broken financial system. Nearly half the population under 25 is unemployed. Last September, organizers of a government-sponsored seminar on emigrating to Australia, an event that drew 42 people a year earlier, were overwhelmed when 12,000 people signed up. Greek bankers told me that people had taken about one-third of their money out of their accounts; many, it seems, were keeping what savings they had under their beds or buried in their backyards. One banker, part of whose job these days is persuading people to keep their money in the bank, said to me, “Who would trust a Greek bank?”

Can you imagine?

Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic collapse and nobody can see a light at the end of the tunnel at this point.

As I have written about previously, the overall rate of unemployment in Greece has now risen above 20 percent and the youth unemployment rate in Greece has soared to an astounding 48 percent.

Deleveraging can be an extremely painful process.  Greece has been forced to try to reduce the size of its budget deficit, but every time it cuts government spending that causes economic activity (and thus government revenues) to slow down as well.

Now the EU and the IMF are demanding that even more very painful austerity measures be implemented in Greece even though Greece is already experiencing a full-blown depression.

The EU and the IMF are demanding that Greece fire 15,000 more government workers immediately and a total of 150,000 government workers by 2015.

The EU and the IMF are demanding that wages for government workers be cut by another 20 percent.

The EU and the IMF are demanding that the minimum wage be slashed by more than 20 percent.

The EU and the IMF are also demanding significant reductions in unemployment benefits and pension benefits.

Of course all of those cuts are going to make the short-term economic conditions in Greece even worse.

The rioting, looting and burning of buildings that we are witnessing right now in Greece is likely to continue for quite some time as exasperated citizens attempt to express their frustrations to politicians that simply do not seem to care.

According to the National Confederation of Greek Commerce, recent rioting resulted in damage to 153 businesses in Athens.  45 of those businesses were totally destroyed.

You can view some stunning footage of the current rioting in Greece right here.

Despite all of the austerity measures that have already been implemented, the truth is that Greece is very likely to default soon anyway.

There is a very good chance that the new austerity agreement that the Greek parliament just approved will never be implemented.  There are new elections scheduled for April and the current party in power is polling in the single digits.

The new Greek government is likely to look much different from the current one, and nobody knows for sure if the new government will follow through on any of the promises being made by the current government.

In addition, the German parliament must approve this new deal with Greece, and the German parliament is not scheduled to vote on it until February 27th.  Considering the mood in Germany right now, approval is not guaranteed.

So there are all kinds of things that could go wrong with the “deals” that are currently being discussed.  The truth is that a Greek default in the coming months seems to become more likely by the day.

Some in the financial world almost seem eager for a Greek default.  The following is what Jon Moulton, the chairman of Better Capital, recently told CNBC….

“If I was Greek, I wouldn’t be going for these measures, I’d be going for default and getting it over with. Would you like two to three years of pain or 20?”

But a disorderly Greek default would not be a pleasant thing for the global economy at all.  A recent article in the Guardian detailed what some of the consequences of a Greek default and exit from the eurozone might be….

But default and “re-drachmatisation” would be a costly and chaotic process. In the long term the euro might be strengthened if some of its weaker members headed for the door. But in the short term banks across the eurozone might have to be closed to prevent a run on the single currency as investors speculated about which country might be next. A new wave of bank nationalisations would be likely to follow as lenders counted their losses on now worthless Greek debt.

Capital controls would have to be imposed and borders shut to stop money flooding out of Greece. Portugal, Italy and Spain would come under intense pressure from investors wary about the risk of another victim. Banks everywhere, already reluctant to lend, would cut back hard, nervous about their exposure to the bonds of all Europe’s crisis-hit states.

And the financial crisis in Europe is going to continue to spread well beyond Greece.  Moody’s Investors Service just downgraded the credit ratings of six European nations.  The following is how Bloomberg described the downgrades….

Spain was downgraded to A3 from A1 with a negative outlook, Italy was downgraded to A3 from A2 with a negative outlook and Portugal was downgraded to Ba3 from Ba2 with a negative outlook, Moody’s said. It also reduced the ratings of Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta.

Countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Hungary are heading down the exact same road that Greece has gone.  Greece was the first one to experience a full-blown depression, but soon Greece will have a lot of company.

Greece is most definitely a warning sign for the world.  If you keep recklessly piling up debt, eventually a day of reckoning comes.  It is inevitable.

But Barack Obama does not seem to understand this.  He continues to pile another 150 million dollars on to our national debt every single hour.  He knows that cutting spending significantly right now would hurt the economy and that would significantly hurt his chances for another term.

Needless to say, Barack Obama is not likely to do anything that is going to significantly hurt his chances for another four years in the White House.

So we continue to roll on toward disaster.

The U.S. financial system is like a car with no brakes that is heading straight toward a 5,000 foot drop at 100 miles an hour.

It is all going to seem like fun and games to some people until we hit the canyon floor.

Once that happens, nobody will be laughing.

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