Barack Obama recently stated that anyone that is claiming that America’s economy is in decline is “peddling fiction“. Well, if the economy is in such great shape, why are major retailers shutting down hundreds of stores all over the country? Last month, I wrote about the “retail apocalypse” that is sweeping the nation, but since then it has gotten even worse. Closing stores has become the “hot new trend” in the retail world, and “space available” signs are going up in mall windows all over the United States. Barack Obama can continue huffing and puffing about how well the middle class is doing all he wants, but the truth is that the cold, hard numbers that retailers are reporting tell an entirely different story.
Earlier today, Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert released a letter to shareholders that was filled with all kinds of bad news. In this letter, he blamed the horrible results that Sears has been experiencing lately on “tectonic shifts” in consumer spending…
In a letter to shareholders on Thursday, Lampert said the impact of “tectonic shifts” in consumer spending has spread more broadly in the last year to retailers “that had previously proven to be relatively immune to such shifts.”
“Walmart, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Staples, Whole Foods and many others have felt the impact of disruptive changes from online competition and new business models,” Lampert wrote.
And it is very true – Sears is doing horribly, but they are far from alone. The following are 13 major retailers that are closing down stores…
#1 Sears lost 580 million dollars in the fourth quarter of 2015 alone, and they are scheduled to close at least 50 more “unprofitable stores” by the end of this year.
#2 It is being reported that Sports Authority will file for bankruptcy in March. Some news reports have indicated that around 200 stores may close, but at this point it is not known how many of their 450 stores will be able to stay open.
#3 For decades, Kohl’s has been growing aggressively, but now it plans to shutter 18 stores in 2016.
#4 Target has just finished closing 13 stores in the United States.
#5 Best Buy closed 30 stores last year, and it says that more store closings are likely in the months to come.
#6 Office Depot plans to close a total of 400 stores by the end of 2016.
The next seven examples come from one of my previous articles…
#7 Wal-Mart is closing 269 stores, including 154 inside the United States.
#8 K-Mart is closing down more than two dozen stores over the next several months.
#9 J.C. Penney will be permanently shutting down 47 more stores after closing a total of 40 stores in 2015.
#10 Macy’s has decided that it needs to shutter 36 stores and lay off approximately 2,500 employees.
#11 The Gap is in the process of closing 175 stores in North America.
#12 Aeropostale is in the process of closing 84 stores all across America.
#13 Finish Line has announced that 150 stores will be shutting down over the next few years.
These store closings can be particularly cruel for small towns. Just consider the impact that Wal-Mart has had on the little town of Oriental, North Carolina…
The Town’n Country grocery in Oriental, North Carolina, a local fixture for 44 years, closed its doors in October after a Wal-Mart store opened for business. Now, three months later — and less than two years after Wal-Mart arrived — the retail giant is pulling up stakes, leaving the community with no grocery store and no pharmacy.
Though mom-and-pop stores have steadily disappeared across the American landscape over the past three decades as the mega chain methodically expanded, there was at least always a Wal-Mart left behind to replace them. Now the Wal-Marts are disappearing, too.
Of course there are many factors involved in this ongoing retail apocalypse. Competition from online retailers is becoming more intense, and consumer spending patterns are rapidly changing.
But in the end, the truth is that you can’t get blood out of a rock. The middle class in America is shrinking, and there just isn’t as much discretionary spending going on as there used to be.
And now that we have entered a new economic downturn, many retailers are finding that there are some local communities that can no longer support their stores. The following comes from CNBC…
Though the shift to online shopping is no doubt playing a role in lighter foot traffic at malls, there’s more to their changing economics than the rise of Amazon. Changing demographics in a town are another reason a shopping center could struggle or fail — for example, if massive layoffs in a particular industry cause people to move away to find employment.
“A lot of people want to try and tie it to the Internet or ‘that’s not cool,’ or teens don’t like it,” Jesse Tron, a spokesman for industry trade group International Council of Shopping Centers, told CNBC last year. “It’s hard to support large-format retail in those suburban areas when people are trying to just pay their mortgage.”
In order to have a thriving middle class, we need good paying middle class jobs. Unfortunately, our economy has been bleeding those kinds of jobs quite rapidly. For example, Halliburton just announced that it is eliminating 5,000 more jobs after getting rid of 4,000 workers at the end of last year.
During the Obama years, good paying middle class jobs have been getting replaced by low paying service jobs. At this point, 51 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
And there is no way that you can support a middle class family with children on $30,000 a year.
We have an economy that is in the process of failing. We can see it in the explosion of subprime auto loans that are going bad, we can see it in the hundreds of retail stores that are shutting down, and we can see it in the tens of thousands of good paying energy jobs that are being lost.
During the Obama years, interest rates have been pushed to the floor, the Federal Reserve has created trillions of dollars out of thin air, and the size of our national debt is getting close to doubling. Despite all of those desperate measures, our economy continues to crumble.
We stole from the future to try to paper over our failures and it didn’t work. Now an economic downturn that will ultimately turn out to be even worse than the “Great Recession” of 2008 and 2009 has begun, and our leaders have absolutely no idea how to fix things.
I wish I had better news to report, but I don’t. Get prepared now, because very rough times are ahead.
I was absolutely stunned to learn that the Baltic Dry Shipping Index had plummeted to a new all-time record low of 504 at one point on Thursday. I have written a number of articles lately about the dramatic slowdown in global trade, but I didn’t realize that things had gotten quite this bad already. Not even during the darkest moments of the last financial crisis did the Baltic Dry Shipping Index drop this low. Something doesn’t seem to be adding up, because the mainstream media keeps telling us that the global economy is doing just fine. In fact, the Federal Reserve is so confident in our “economic recovery” that they are getting ready to raise interest rates. Of course the truth is that there is no “economic recovery” on the horizon. In fact, as I wrote about yesterday, there are signs all around us that are indicating that we are heading directly into another major economic crisis. This staggering decline of the Baltic Dry Shipping Index is just another confirmation of what is directly ahead of us.
Overall, the Baltic Dry Index is down more than 60 percent over the past 12 months. Global demand for shipping is absolutely collapsing, and yet very few “experts” seem alarmed by this. If you are not familiar with the Baltic Dry Shipping Index, the following is a pretty good definition from Investopedia…
A shipping and trade index created by the London-based Baltic Exchange that measures changes in the cost to transport raw materials such as metals, grains and fossil fuels by sea. The Baltic Exchange directly contacts shipping brokers to assess price levels for a given route, product to transport and time to delivery (speed).
The Baltic Dry Index is a composite of three sub-indexes that measure different sizes of dry bulk carriers (merchant ships) – Capesize, Supramax and Panamax. Multiple geographic routes are evaluated for each index to give depth to the index’s composite measurement.
It is also known as the “Dry Bulk Index”.
Much of the decline of the Baltic Dry Shipping Index is being blamed on China. The following comes from a Bloomberg report that was posted on Thursday…
The cost of shipping commodities fell to a record, amid signs that Chinese demand growth for iron ore and coal is slowing, hurting the industry’s biggest source of cargoes.
The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of shipping rates for everything from coal to ore to grains, fell to 504 points on Thursday, the lowest data from the London-based Baltic Exchange going back to 1985. Among the causes of shipowners’ pain is slowing economic growth in China, which is translating into weakening demand for imported iron ore that’s used to make the steel.
So many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed back in 2008 are playing out once again in front of our very eyes. Below, I have shared a chart that was posted by Zero Hedge, and it shows how the Baltic Dry Shipping Index absolutely collapsed in 2008 as we headed into a major financial crisis. Well, now the Index is collapsing again, and it is already lower than it was at any point back in 2008…
The evidence continues to mount that we are steamrolling toward a deflationary economic slowdown that is worldwide in scope.
Just look at the price of U.S. oil. It just keeps on falling, and as I write this article it is sitting at $40.40.
The price of oil collapsed just before the financial crisis of 2008, and the same pattern is happening again.
And look at what is happening to commodities. The Thomson Reuters/CoreCommodity CRB Commodity Index has plummeted to the lowest level that we have seen since the last recession. It is now down more than 30 percent over the past 12 months, and it continues to fall.
So don’t be fooled by the temporary “stock market recovery” that we have witnessed. The underlying economic fundamentals continue to decline. We are entering a global deflationary recession, and the stock market will get the memo at some point just like we saw in 2008.
At this moment, global financial markets are teetering on the brink, and all it is going to take is some kind of major trigger event to send them tumbling over the edge.
And such an event may be coming sooner than you may think.
We live at a time when global terrorism is surging, relationships between nations are deteriorating and our planet is shaking in wild and unpredictable ways.
It wouldn’t take much to push the financial world into full-blown panic mode. A major regional war in the Middle East, a terror attack that kills thousands, or an earthquake or volcanic eruption that affects a large U.S. city are all potential examples of “black swan events” which could fit the bill.
The global financial system has never been more primed for another 2008-style crisis. Thanks to the fragility of the system, it could literally happen any day now.
So keep your eyes open – within weeks our world could be completely and totally different.
If you believe that ignorance is bliss, you might not want to read this article. I am going to dispel the notion that there has been any sort of “economic recovery”, and I am going to show that we are much worse off than we were just prior to the last economic crisis. If you go back to 2007, people were feeling really good about things. Houses were being flipped like crazy, the stock market was booming and unemployment was relatively low. But then the financial crisis of 2008 struck, and for a while it felt like the world was coming to an end. Of course it didn’t come to an end – it was just the first wave of our problems. The waves that come next are going to be the ones that really wipe us out. Unfortunately, because we have experienced a few years of relative stability, many Americans have become convinced that Barack Obama, Janet Yellen and the rest of the folks in Washington D.C. have fixed whatever problems caused the last crisis. Even though all of the numbers are screaming otherwise, there are millions upon millions of people out there that truly believe that everything is going to be okay somehow. We never seem to learn from the past, and when this next economic downturn strikes it is going to do an astonishing amount of damage because we are already in a significantly weakened state from the last one.
For each of the charts that I am about to share with you, I want you to focus on the last shaded gray bar on each chart which represents the last recession. As you will see, our economic problems are significantly worse than they were just before the financial crisis of 2008. That means that we are far less equipped to handle a major economic crisis than we were the last time.
#1 The National Debt
Just prior to the last recession, the U.S. national debt was a bit above 9 trillion dollars. Since that time, it has nearly doubled. So does that make us better off or worse off? The answer, of course, is obvious. And even though Barack Obama promises that “deficits are under control”, more than a trillion dollars was added to the national debt in fiscal year 2014. What we are doing to future generations by burdening them with so much debt is beyond criminal. And so what does Barack Obama want to do now? He wants to ramp up government spending and increase the debt even faster. This is something that I covered in my previous article entitled “Barack Obama Says That What America Really Needs Is Lots More Debt“.
#2 Total Debt
Over the past 40 years, the total amount of debt in the United States has skyrocketed to astronomical heights. We have become a “buy now, pay later” society with devastating consequences. Back in 1975, our total debt level was sitting at about 2.5 trillion dollars. Just prior to the last recession, it was sitting at about 50 trillion dollars, and today we are rapidly closing in on 60 trillion dollars.
#3 The Velocity Of Money
When an economy is healthy, money tends to change hands and circulate through the system quite rapidly. So it makes sense that the velocity of money fell dramatically during the last recession. But why has it kept going down since then?
#4 The Homeownership Rate
Were you aware that the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen to a 20 year low? Traditionally, owning a home has been a sign that you belong to the middle class. And the last recession was really rough on the middle class, so it makes sense that the rate of homeownership declined during that time frame. But why has it continued to steadily decline ever since?
#5 The Employment Rate
Barack Obama loves to tell us how the unemployment rate is “going down”. But as I will explain later in this article, this decline is primarily based on accounting tricks. Posted below is a chart of the civilian employment-population ratio. Just prior to the last recession, approximately 63 percent of the working age population of the United States was employed. During the recession, this ratio fell to below 59 percent and it stayed there for several years. Just recently it has peeked back above 59 percent, but we are still very, very far from where we used to be, and now the next economic downturn is rapidly approaching.
#6 The Labor Force Participation Rate
So how can Obama get away with saying that the unemployment rate has gone down dramatically? Well, each month the government takes thousands upon thousands of long-term unemployed workers and decides that they have been unemployed for so long that they no longer qualify as “part of the labor force”. As a result, the “labor force participation rate” has fallen substantially since the end of the last recession…
#7 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Working Years
If things are “getting better”, then why are so many men in their prime working years doing nothing at all? Just prior to the last recession, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years was about 9 percent. Today it is just about 12 percent.
#8 Real Median Household Income
Not only is a smaller percentage of Americans employed today than compared to just prior to the last recession, the quality of our jobs has gone down as well. This is one of the factors which has resulted in a stunning decline of real median household income.
I have shared these next numbers before, but they bear repeating. In America today, most Americans do not make enough to support a middle class lifestyle on a single salary. The following figures come directly from the Social Security Administration…
-39 percent of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.
-52 percent of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
-63 percent of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.
-72 percent of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.
We all know people that are working part-time jobs because that is all that they can find in this economy. As the quality of our jobs continues to deteriorate, the numbers above are going to become even more dismal.
Even as our incomes have stagnated, the cost of living just continues to rise steadily. For example, the cost of food and beverages has gone up nearly 50 percent just since the year 2000.
#10 Government Dependence
As the middle class shrinks and the number of Americans that cannot independently take care of themselves soars, dependence on the government is reaching unprecedented heights. For instance, the federal government is now spending about twice as much on food stamps as it was just prior to the last recession. How in the world can anyone dare to call this an “economic recovery”?
So you tell me – are things “getting better” or are they getting worse?
To me, it is crystal clear that we are in much worse condition than we were just prior to the last economic crisis.
And now things are setting up in textbook fashion for the next great economic crisis. Unfortunately, most Americans are totally clueless about what is going on and the vast majority are completely and totally unprepared for what is coming.
Or could it be possible that I am wrong? Whether you agree or disagree with me, please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…
Barack Obama and the Federal Reserve are lying to you. The “economic recovery” that we all keep hearing about is mostly just a mirage. The percentage of Americans that are employed has barely budged since the depths of the last recession, the labor force participation rate is at a 36 year low, the overall rate of homeownership is the lowest that it has been in nearly 20 years and approximately 49 percent of all Americans are financially dependent on the government at this point. In a recent article, I shared 12 charts that clearly demonstrate the permanent damage that has been done to our economy over the last decade. The response to that article was very strong. Many people were quite upset to learn that they were not being told the truth by our politicians and by the mainstream media. Sadly, the vast majority of Americans still have absolutely no idea what is being done to our economy. For those out there that still believe that we are doing “just fine”, here are 19 more facts about the messed up state of the U.S. economy…
#1 After accounting for inflation, median household income in the United States is 8 percent lower than it was when the last recession started in 2007.
#2 The number of part-time workers in America has increased by 54 percent since the last recession began in December 2007. Meanwhile, the number of full-time jobs has dropped by more than a million over that same time period.
#3 More than 7 million Americans that are currently working part-time jobs would actually like to have full-time jobs.
#4 The jobs gained during this “recovery” pay an average of 23 percent less than the jobs that were lost during the last recession.
#5 The number of unemployed workers that have completely given up looking for work is twice as high now as it was when the last recession began in December 2007.
#6 When the last recession began, about 17 percent of all unemployed workers had been out of work for six months or longer. Today, that number sits at just above 34 percent.
#7 Due to a lack of decent jobs, half of all college graduates are still relying on their parents financially when they are two years out of school.
#8 According to a new method of calculating poverty devised by the U.S. Census Bureau, the state of California currently has a poverty rate of 23.4 percent.
#9 According to the New York Times, the “typical American household” is now worth 36 percent less than it was worth a decade ago.
#10 In 2007, the average household in the top 5 percent had 16.5 times as much wealth as the average household overall. But now the average household in the top 5 percent has 24 times as much wealth as the average household overall.
#11 In an absolutely stunning development, the rate of small business ownership in the United States has plunged to an all-time low.
#12 Subprime loans now make up 31 percent of all auto loans in America. Didn’t that end up really badly when the housing industry tried the same thing?
#13 The average cost of producing a barrel of shale oil in the United States is approximately 85 dollars. Now that the price of oil is starting to slip under that number, the “shale boom” in America could turn into a bust very rapidly.
#14 On a purchasing power basis, China now actually has a larger economy than the United States does.
#15 It is hard to believe, but there are 49 million people that are dealing with food insecurity in America today.
#16 There are six banks in the United States that pretty much everyone agrees fit into the “too big to fail” category. Five of them have more than 40 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.
#17 The 113 top earning employees at the Federal Reserve headquarters in Washington D.C. make an average of $246,506 a year. It turns out that ruining the U.S. economy is a very lucrative profession.
#18 We are told that the federal deficit is under control, but the truth is that the U.S. national debt increased by more than a trillion dollars during fiscal year 2014.
#19 An astounding 40 million dollars has been spent just on vacations for Barack Obama and his family. Perhaps he figures that if we are going down as a nation anyway, he might as well enjoy the ride.
If our economy truly was “recovering”, there would be lots of good paying middle class jobs available.
But that is not the case at all.
I know so many people in their prime working years that spend day after day searching for a job. Most of them never seem to get anywhere. It isn’t because they don’t have anything to offer. It is just that the labor market is absolutely saturated with qualified job seekers.
For example, USA Today recently shared the story of 42-year-old Alex Gomez…
“I’ve had to seriously downgrade my living situation,” said Alex Gomez, a 42-year-old with a master’s degree in entrepreneurship. Gomez lost his last full-time job in 2009 and has been looking for work since a short-term contract position ended in 2012.
Gomez’s home was foreclosed on, so the Tampa resident lives with three roommates in a college neighborhood. He drained his 401(k) trying to save his house, and he has around $150,000 in student loans. His mother is tapping her 401(k) to pay his rent. Gomez subsists on that and about $200 a month in food stamps.
“I have been applying and looking for pretty much anything at this stage,” he said. Although he’s looking for work in engineering or data management, “I applied to a supermarket as a deli clerk because I used to be a deli clerk as a teenager,” he said. He was told he was overqualified and turned down.
Does Alex Gomez have gifts and abilities to share with our society?
Of course he does.
So why can’t he find a job?
It is because we have a broken economy.
We are in the midst of a long-term economic decline and the system simply does not work properly anymore.
And thanks to decades of very foolish decisions, this is only the start of our problems.
Things are only going to get worse from here.
The U.S. economy has had six full years to bounce back since the financial collapse of 2008, and it simply has not happened. Median household income has declined substantially since then, total household wealth for middle class families is way down, the percentage of the population that is employed is still about where it was at the end of the last recession, and the number of Americans that are dependent on the government has absolutely exploded. Even those that claim that the economy is “recovering” admit that we are not even close to where we used to be economically. Many hope that someday we will eventually get back to that level, but the truth is that this is about as good as things are ever going to get for the middle class. And we should enjoy this period of relative stability while we still can, because when the next great financial crisis strikes things are going to fall apart very rapidly.
The U.S. Census Bureau has just released some brand new numbers, and they are quite sobering. For example, after accounting for inflation median household income in the United States has declined a total of 8 percent from where it was back in 2007.
That means that middle class families have significantly less purchasing power than they did just prior to the last major financial crisis.
And one research firm is projecting that it is going to take until 2019 for median household income to return to the level that we witnessed in 2007…
For everybody wondering why the economic recovery feels like a recession, here’s the answer: We’re still at least five years away from regaining everything lost during the 2007-2009 downturn.
Forecasting firm IHS Global Insight predicts that real median household income — perhaps the best proxy for middle-class living standards — won’t reach the prior peak from 2007 until 2019. Since the numbers are adjusted for inflation, that means the typical family will wait 12 years until their purchasing power is as strong as it was before the recession. That would be the longest period of stagnation, by far, since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Of course that projection assumes that the economy will continue to “recover”, which is a very questionable assumption at best.
Meanwhile, total household wealth has been declining for middle class families as well.
According to the New York Times, the “typical American household” is now worth 36 percent less than it was worth a decade ago.
That is a pretty substantial drop. But you never hear our politicians (especially the Democrats) bring up numbers like that because they want us to feel good about things.
So why is all of this happening?
The biggest reason why the middle class is struggling so much is the lack of good jobs.
As the chart posted below demonstrates, the percentage of the working age population that is actually employed is still way, way below where it was prior to the last recession…
The “employment recovery” (the tiny little bump at the end of the chart) has been so miniscule that it is hardly even worth mentioning.
At the moment, we still have 1.4 million fewer full-time jobs than we did in 2008 even though more than 100,000 people are added to the U.S. population each month.
And a lot of the workers that have lost jobs since the start of the last recession have never been able to find a new one.
According to a brand new survey conducted by Rutgers University, more than 20 percent of all workers that have been laid off in the past five years still have not found a new job.
Meanwhile, the control freak bureaucrats that run this country continue to kill off small businesses.
In recent years we have seen large numbers of small businesses fail, and at this point the rate of small business ownership in the United States is at an all-time low.
As a result of everything that you have just read, the middle class is shrinking and dependence on the government is soaring.
Today, there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity, and Americans received more than 2 trillion dollars in benefits from the federal government last year alone.
For many more statistics just like this, please see my previous article entitled “30 stats to show to anyone that does not believe the middle class is being destroyed“.
Without a doubt, things are not that good for the middle class in America these days.
Unfortunately, the next great wave of financial trouble is rapidly approaching, and once it strikes things are going to get substantially worse for the middle class.
Yes, the stock market set record high after record high this summer. But what we have observed is classic bubble behavior. So many of the exact same patterns that occurred just prior to previous stock market crashes are happening once again.
And it is interesting to note that September 22nd has marked important market peaks at various times throughout history…
For traders, September 22 is one of those days with a notorious history. UBS’s Art Cashin notes that September 22 marked various market highs in 1873, 1929, 1980, and even as recent as 2008.
Could the coming months be the beginning of the next major stock market decline?
Small-cap stocks are already starting to show signs of real weakness. In fact, the Russell 2000 just hit a “death cross” for the first time in more than 2 years…
The Russell 2000 has been diverging from the broader market over the last several weeks, and now technicians point out it has flashed a bearish signal. For the first time in more than two years, the small-cap index has hit a so-called death cross.
A death cross occurs when a nearer-term 50-day moving average falls below a longer-term, 200-day moving average. Technicians argue that a death cross can be a bearish sign.
None of us knows what the market is going to do tomorrow, but a lot of the “smart money” is getting out of the market right now while the getting is good.
So where is the “smart money” putting their assets?
In a previous article, I discussed how sales of gold bars to wealthy clients is way up so far this year.
And CNBC has just reported that the ultra-wealthy “are holding mountains of cash” right now…
Billionaires are holding mountains of cash, offering the latest sign that the ultra-wealthy are nervous about putting more money into today’s markets.
According to the new Billionaire Census from Wealth-X and UBS, the world’s billionaires are holding an average of $600 million in cash each—greater than the gross domestic product of Dominica.
Why are they doing this?
Are they concerned about the potential of a market crash?
And if we do see another market crash like we witnessed back in 2008, what is that going to mean for the rest of us?
2008 certainly did not destroy our economy.
But it did cause an immense amount of damage that we have never recovered from.
Now the next wave is approaching, and most people don’t even see it coming.
According to the Federal Reserve, the percentage of American families that own a small business is at the lowest level that has ever been recorded. In a report that was just released entitled “Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2010 to 2013: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances“, the Federal Reserve revealed that small business ownership in America “fell substantially” between 2010 and 2013. Even in the midst of this so-called “economic recovery”, small business ownership in America has now fallen to an all-time low. If the economy truly was healthy, this would not be happening. And it isn’t as if Americans are flooding the labor market either. As I detailed yesterday, the labor force participation rate in this country is at a 36 year low. That would not be happening if the economy was actually healthy either. The truth is that the middle class in America is dying, and this new report from the Federal Reserve is more evidence of this very harsh reality.
In order to build wealth, middle class Americans either need to have their own businesses or they need good jobs. Sadly, the percentage of Americans that own a business continues to decline steadily. In the report that I mentioned above, the Federal Reserve says that the proportion of U.S. families that have an ownership interest in a small business fell from 13.3 percent in 2010 to a brand new all-time low of 11.7 percent in 2013.
This is one of the factors that is increasing the gap between the extremely wealthy and the rest of us in this country. And of course another of the major factors is the steady decline in good paying jobs.
The U.S. Competitiveness Project at Harvard Business School is chaired by professors Michael E. Porter and Jan W. Rivkin. It just released a new report entitled “An Economy Doing Half Its Job”, and it addressed the fact that the middle class is deeply struggling even though many large U.S. corporations have been thriving. The following is an excerpt from an article in the Boston Globe about this report…
In a statement, Porter added: “Shortsighted executives may be satisfied with an American economy where firms operating here are winning without lifting US living standards. But leaders with longer perspectives understand that companies can’t thrive for long while their workers and their communities struggle.”
Unfortunately, this is not likely to change any time soon. In fact, that same report discovered that Harvard Business School alumni foresee “falling pay and fewer openings for full-time jobs” for American workers in the years ahead…
U.S. workers face a dim future, with stagnant or falling pay and fewer openings for full-time jobs.
That’s the picture that emerges from a survey of Harvard Business School alumni.
More than 40 percent of the respondents foresee lower pay and benefits for workers. Roughly half favor outsourcing work over hiring staffers. A growing share prefer part-time employees. Nearly half would rather invest in new technology than hire or retain workers.
The Obama administration continues to tell us that the unemployment rate is “going down” and that the economy is recovering, but that does not match the reality of what most Americans are experiencing on a day to day basis.
As David Stockman recently so aptly put it, outside of health and education the U.S. economy has not produced a single job since mid-2000 even though our population has grown greatly since that time…
In a few deft seconds, a “no jobs” nobody who apparently doesn’t actually have one himself, essentially explained the contents of the chart below to his silenced CNBC hosts. Over the course of 170 “jobs Fridays” since mid-2000, the latter have apparently never noticed the single most stunning fact embedded in the monthly BLS report. Namely, that outside of health and education there has not been one net new job created in the American economy since July 2000! Yes, not a single new job—as in none, nein, nichts, nada, zip!
In addition, most of the new jobs that are being “added to the economy” each month are part-time jobs. Right now, we still have 1.4 million fewer full-time jobs than we did in 2008 even though more than 100,000 people are added to the population each month.
What this means is that the middle class is shrinking.
We are witnessing an increasing concentration of wealth among the ultra-wealthy, and most of the rest of us are getting poorer. As a recent CNN article detailed, the Federal Reserve has also discovered that the gap between the rich and the poor in America is larger than the Fed has ever recorded before…
In its Study of Consumer Finances, released every three years, the Fed found that the wealthiest 3% of American households controlled 54.4% of the nation’s wealth in 2013, a slight increase from its last survey in 2010. It’s also substantially higher from the 44.8% they held in 1989, showing how quickly the income divide has been growing over the past decade or so.
At the same time, the share of wealth held by the bottom 90% fell to 24.7% in 2013. That’s compared to 33.2% in 1989.
How close does the share of wealth for the bottom 90 percent have to go before we admit that we have a major problem on our hands?
Is there anyone out there that would be okay with it hitting zero percent?
One of the big reasons why the wealthy have been doing so well is because the stock market has been soaring. The money printing policies of the Federal Reserve have sent stock prices to unprecedented heights. This has overwhelmingly benefited the extremely wealthy…
According to recent data from the Federal Reserve, America has the lowest level of stock ownership in 18 years. Yet stock ownership for the wealthy is at a new high—and that has accounted for most of their good fortune compared to the rest of America.
In fact, the Fed says that the wealthiest top 10 percent of all Americans now own 81 percent of all stocks…
Stock ownership is even more concentrated when it comes to share of total stock holdings. In 2010, the latest period available, the top 10 percent of Americans by net worth held 81 percent of all directly held or indirectly held stocks, according to Edward N. Wolff, an economics professor at New York University who specializes in inequality and Federal Reserve data.
Wolff said that share—which has not been released yet for 2013—has probably gone even higher than 81 percent since 2010.
Since the last financial crisis, the Federal Reserve has been very good to the elite.
But most of the rest of us have had a really hard time.
Until more Americans start getting good jobs and building small businesses, things are not going to turn around for the middle class.
But the policies being pursued by our politicians continue to kill good jobs and continue to kill small businesses, so I wouldn’t expect significant changes any time soon.
Did you know that 77 million Americans have unpaid debts that are “in collections” and that Congress is actually thinking about letting post offices offer payday loans? We live in a country where almost everyone is drowning in debt and where most people are either flat broke or very close to flat broke. Years ago, “your Mama is so broke” jokes were all the rage, and at the rate we are going they could make a big comeback. Some of my favorites were “your Mama is so broke she went to McDonald’s and put a milkshake on layaway” and “your Mama is so broke your family ate cereal with a fork to save milk”. Unfortunately, the facts that I am about to share with you are not funny at all. In fact, they are quite sobering. Yes, things are going fairly well for the elitists that live in the good areas of New York City, Washington D.C. and San Francisco right now, but most of the country is deeply struggling as our economic fundamentals continue to crumble. Please share these numbers with as many people as you can, because we need people to understand that there has not been an “economic recovery” for most of America. In fact, in many ways things just continue to get even worse. The following are 21 ways to end the phrase “Americans are so broke”…
1. Americans are so broke that about a third of them have debt collectors on their heels. One recent study discovered that more than one out of every three adults in the United States has an unpaid debt that is “in collections“. That is a total of 77 million people. In other words, the debt collection business in America is absolutely booming.
2. Americans are so broke that Congress is now actually considering allowing post offices to provide payday loans and check cashing services.
3. Americans are so broke that they are keeping their vehicles longer than ever. The average age of vehicles on America’s roads recently set a new all-time high of 11.4 years.
4. Americans are so broke that car dealers are having to go to extreme lengths to get new customers. Last year, one out of every four auto loans in the United States was made to someone with subprime credit.
5. Americans are so broke that 52 percent of them cannot even afford the homes that they are living in right now.
6. Americans are so broke that they are falling farther behind on their student loans than ever. The total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. has now reached a whopping 1.2 trillion dollars, and approximately seven million Americans are in default on their student loans at this point.
7. Young Americans are so broke that half of all college graduates are still relying on their parents financially when they are two years out of school.
8. Young Americans are so broke that only 36 percent of American adults under the age of 35 currently own a home. That is the lowest level that has ever been recorded.
9. Americans are so broke that many of them can’t even afford to shop at Wal-Mart and dollar stores anymore…
Discount stores are slowly dying.
Yesterday, Dollar Tree announced it would buy Family Dollar, a chain that is in the process of closing hundreds of stores and firing workers.
Other discount stores have been struggling as well, writes Heidi Moore at The Guardian. Fashion discounter Loehmann’s filed for bankruptcy, while Wal-Mart’s sales have declined for the past five quarters.
“There’s just not enough money deployed by American families to keep all the discount chains in business,” Moore writes.
10. Americans are so broke that they are running up record levels of debt. Overall, U.S. households are 11.68 trillion dollars in debt right now.
11. Americans are so broke that the wealth of the “typical American household” has fallen by 36 percent over the past decade.
12. Americans are so broke that one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.
13. Americans are so broke that more than 37 million Americans are now being served by food pantries and soup kitchens.
14. Americans are so broke that there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity.
15. Americans are so broke that the number of people on food stamps has increased by about 14 million while Obama has been in the White House. Ten years ago, the number of women in the U.S. that had jobs outnumbered the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin. But now the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps actually exceeds the number of women that have jobs.
16. Americans are so broke that the U.S. government has had to spend an astounding 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs over the past five years.
17. Americans are so broke that more than 20 percent of all children in the U.S. are living in poverty.
18. Americans are so broke that we have a record number of kids sleeping in the streets. In fact, we have more than a million public school children that are homeless at this point.
19. Americans are so broke that 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
20. Americans are so broke that 26 percent of Americans have absolutely no emergency savings whatsoever.
21. Americans are so broke that approximately two-thirds of all Americans do not have enough money saved up to cover six months of expenses if an emergency arose.
If things are this bad now, during the so-called “economic recovery”, how bad will things get during the next major economic downturn?
Unfortunately, most Americans have been lulled into a false sense of security. The financial crisis of 2008 seems like ancient history to most of them now, and most people appear to believe that our leaders have “fixed” whatever was wrong the last time.
Of course that is not the case at all. In fact, our long-term problems have just continued to grow since then.
The truth is that what we are experiencing right now is about as good as things are going to get for the U.S. economy. When the next crisis arrives, all of the numbers in the list above are going to rapidly get a lot worse.
So enjoy the rest of this “bubble” while you still can. It certainly will not last for too much longer.
What would you say about an economy where businesses are shutting down faster than they are opening? Well, a shocking new study released by the Brookings Institution indicates that this is exactly what is happening in the United States. We are absolutely killing small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit in this country, and as you will see below, the number of self-employed Americans has been on a downward trend for a decade even though our population has been steadily growing. Traditionally, small businesses have been the primary engine of job growth in this nation, so the fact that study after study has found that small business creation is being crippled in the United States is a really bad sign for our economic future.
Personally, I write about our long-term economic decline nearly every day, but even I had no idea that businesses were being destroyed faster than they were being created. According to the Brookings Institution, this first started happening in 2009…
The American economy is less entrepreneurial now than at any point in the last three decades. That’s the conclusion of a new study out from the Brookings Institution, which looks at the rates of new business creation and destruction since 1978.
Not only that, but during the most recent three years of the study — 2009, 2010 and 2011 — businesses were collapsing faster than they were being formed, a first.
And this mirrors an earlier study conducted by economist Tim Kane. According to his analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data, the following is how the decline in the number of new business jobs per one thousand Americans breaks down by presidential administration…
Bush Sr.: 11.3
Bush Jr.: 10.8
As you can see, this is a problem that has been building for decades and that has accelerated under the Obama administration.
We are strangling small business creation to death, and as a result the number of Americans that are self-employed just keeps going down. Just check out this chart…
And keep in mind that throughout this entire time the U.S. population has been growing. So the numbers in the chart above should be going up steadily as the population grows. But instead they have just kept going down.
Meanwhile, the “economic recovery” is continuing in the corporate world as well.
On Tuesday, we learned that Office Depot is going to be closing 400 stores.
Why would that happen if the economy was actually getting better?
When this was announced, shares of Office Depot rose about 20 percent.
I can never understand why that happens. You would think that when a business makes an announcement that essentially says “our business is failing” that it would cause people to dump the stock.
In any event, this comes on the heels of an announcement by Staples back in March that it was going to shut down 225 stores in the United States and Canada.
So where will we buy our pens and paper from now on?
If the economy really was “recovering”, you would think that demand for office supplies would actually be on the rise.
But the only places where the economy is “recovering” is in places such as Washington D.C., New York City and San Francisco.
Those at the top of the pyramid are doing well, but almost everyone else in the country is really suffering right now.
When you kill off small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit, it tends to increasingly funnel money to the very top of the food chain. And this is precisely what is happening in America at this point. In a recent article, Charles Hugh Smith included a chart that shows how average household net worth in the U.S. breaks down by quartile…
Bottom 25%: $4,600
From 25% to 50%: $21,700
From 50% to 75%: $78,900
From 75% to 90%: $242,800
Top 10%: $1,606,600
As you can see, the bottom 50 percent are really not that much above zero at all. In the old days, it seemed like almost everyone was “middle class” in America, but now that is rapidly changing.
We can see this increasing divide in the real estate market as well. According to Bloomberg, sales of million dollar homes are booming, but sales of homes at the low end are plunging…
“Million-dollar homes in the U.S. are selling at double their historical average while middle-class property demand stumbles, showing that the housing recovery is mirroring America’s wealth divide.
Purchases costing $1 million or more rose 7.8 percent in March from a year earlier, according to data released last week by the National Association of Realtors. Transactions for $250,000 or less, which represent almost two-thirds of the market, plunged 12 percent in the period”
So this explains why it is almost impossible to find an affordable home in San Francisco, but the overall homeownership rate in the United States has dropped to the lowest level in 19 years.
But even in our wealthy enclaves there are signs of deep economic trouble. For example, in New York City the number of homeless children has soared to a new all-time high…
They’re just like other kids except they have a secret. They are homeless. Children are living hidden lives in plain sight. They are part a growing number of low income families who find themselves with no way out but they are working hard to find a solution.
It’s a big issue. And it’s growing. More than 23,000 children sleep in homeless shelters every night, an all-time high, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.
The only “recovery” being experienced in America is the one that is happening on Wall Street, in boardrooms in Silicon Valley and in the halls of power in Washington.
In the rest of the country, retail stores are closing at the fastest pace that we have seen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, 20 percent of all families do not have a single member that is employed and 49 million Americans are dealing with food insecurity.
There is no way that we are ever going to have a broad-based economic recovery in this nation if we continue to destroy small businesses. They are the lifeblood of any economy and they are the primary engine of job creation.
Sadly, our politicians seem completely clueless about all of this. So they will continue to do the same things that they have always been doing and then wonder why the economy never seems to turn around.
If the U.S. economy is getting better, then why are major retail chains closing thousands of stores? If we truly are in an “economic recovery”, then why do sales figures continue to go down for large retailers all over the country? Without a doubt, the rise of Internet retailing giants such as Amazon.com have had a huge impact. Today, there are millions of Americans that actually prefer to shop online. Personally, when I published my novel I made it solely available on Amazon. But Internet shopping alone does not account for the great retail apocalypse that we are witnessing. In fact, some retail experts estimate that the Internet has accounted for only about 20 percent of the decline that we are seeing. Most of the rest of it can be accounted for by the slow, steady death of the middle class U.S. consumer. Median household income has declined for five years in a row, but all of our bills just keep going up. That means that the amount of disposable income that average Americans have continues to shrink, and that is really bad news for retailers.
And sadly, this is just the beginning. Retail experts are projecting that the pace of store closings will actually accelerate over the course of the next decade.
So as you read this list below, please take note that things will soon get even worse.
The following are 20 facts about the great U.S. retail apocalypse that will blow your mind…
#1 As you read this article, approximately a billion square feet of retail space is sitting vacant in the United States.
#2 Last week, Radio Shack announced that it was going to close more than a thousand stores.
#3 Last week, Staples announced that it was going to close 225 stores.
#4 Same-store sales at Office Depot have declined for 13 quarters in a row.
#5 J.C. Penney has been dying for years, and it recently announced plans to close 33 more stores.
#6 J.C. Penney lost 586 million dollars during the second quarter of 2013 alone.
#7 Sears has closed about 300 stores since 2010, and CNN is reporting that Sears is “expected to shutter another 500 Sears and Kmart locations soon”.
#8 Overall, sales numbers have declined at Sears for 27 quarters in a row.
#9 Target has announced that it is going to eliminate 475 jobs and not fill 700 positions that are currently empty.
#10 It is being projected that Aéropostale will close about 175 stores over the next couple of years.
#11 Macy’s has announced that it is going to be closing five stores and eliminating 2,500 jobs.
#12 The Children’s Place has announced that it will be closing down 125 of its “weakest” stores by 2016.
#13 Best Buy recently shut down about 50 stores up in Canada.
#14 Video rental giant Blockbuster has completely shut down all of their stores.
#15 It is being projected that sales at U.S. supermarkets will decline by 1.7 percent this year even as the overall population continues to grow.
#16 McDonald’s has reported that sales at established U.S. locations were down 3.3 percent in January.
#17 A home appliance chain known as “American TV” in the Midwest is going to be shutting down all 11 stores.
#18 Even Wal-Mart is struggling right now. Just check out what one very prominent Wal-Mart executive recently admitted…
David Cheesewright, CEO of Walmart International was speaking at the same presentation, and he pointed out that Walmart would try to protect its market share in the US – where the company had just issued an earnings warning. But most of the growth would have to come from its units outside the US. I mean, via these share buybacks?
Alas, outside the US too, economies were limping along at best, and consumers were struggling and the operating environment was tough. “We’re seeing economies under stress pretty much everywhere we operate,” Cheesewright admitted.
#19 In a recent CNBC article entitled “Time to close Wal-Mart stores? Analysts think so“, it was recommended that Wal-Mart should close approximately 100 “underperforming” supercenters in rural locations across America.
#20 Retail consultant Howard Davidowitz is projecting that up to half of all shopping malls in America may shut down within the next 15 to 20 years…
Within 15 to 20 years, retail consultant Howard Davidowitz expects as many as half of America’s shopping malls to fail. He predicts that only upscale shopping centers with anchors like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus will survive.
So is there any hope that things will turn around?
Well, if the U.S. economy started producing large numbers of good paying middle class jobs there would definitely be cause for optimism.
Unfortunately, that is just not happening.
On Friday, we were told that the U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs during the month of February.
That sounds pretty good until you realize that it takes almost that many jobs each month just to keep up with population growth.
And according to CNS News, the number of unemployed Americans actually grew faster than the number of employed Americans in February…
The number of unemployed individuals 16 years and over increased by 223,000 in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
In February, there were 10,459,000 unemployed individuals age 16 and over, which was up 223,000 from January, when there were 10,236,000 unemployed individuals.
Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate continues to sit at a 35 year low, and a staggering 70 percent of all Americans not in the labor force are below the age of 55.
That is outrageous.
And things look particularly depressing when you look at the labor force participation rate for men by themselves.
In 1950, the labor force participation rate for men was sitting at about 87 percent. Today, it has dropped beneath 70 percent to a brand new all-time record low.
The truth is that there simply are not enough jobs for everyone anymore.
The chart posted below shows how the percentage of working age Americans that actually have a job has changed since the turn of the millennium. As you can see, the employment-population ratio declined precipitously during the last recession, and it has stayed below 59 percent since late 2009…
If we were going to have a “recovery”, we should have had one by now.
Since there are not enough jobs, what is happening is that more highly educated workers are taking the jobs that were once occupied by less educated workers and bumping them out of the labor force entirely. The following is an excerpt from a recent Bloomberg article…
Recent college graduates are ending up in more low-wage and part-time positions as it’s become harder to find education-level appropriate jobs, according to a January study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The share of Americans ages 22 to 27 with at least a bachelor’s degree in jobs that don’t require that level of education was 44 percent in 2012, up from 34 percent in 2001, the study found.
Due to the fact that there are not enough middle class jobs to go around, the middle class has been steadily shrinking.
In 2008, 53 percent of all Americans considered themselves to be “middle class”. Today, only 44 percent of all Americans consider themselves to be “middle class”.
That is a pretty significant shift in just six years, don’t you think?
For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “28 Signs That The Middle Class Is Heading Toward Extinction“.
Despite what the politicians and the mainstream media are telling you, the truth is that something is fundamentally wrong with our economy.
On a gut level, most people realize this.
According to one recent survey, only 35 percent of all Americans say that they are better off financially than they were a year ago. And according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 28 percent of all Americans believe that this country is moving in the right direction.
The frightening thing is that this is about as good as things are going to get. The next great wave of the economic collapse is approaching, and when it strikes the plight of the middle class is going to get a whole lot worse.