If you could stay home and play video games all day, would you do it? According to a brand new report that was released by the National Bureau of Economic Research on Monday, American men from the ages of 21 to 30 are working a lot less these days. In fact, on average men in this age group worked 203 fewer hours per year in 2015 than they did in 2000. So what did they do with all of that extra time? According to the study, a large portion of the time that young men used to spend working is now being spent playing video games.
It is certainly no secret that young men like video games. But the study found that in recent years the amount of time young men dedicate to gaming has shot up dramatically…
Comparing data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) for recent years (2012-2015) to eight years prior (2004-2007), we see that: (a) the drop in market hours for young men was mirrored by a roughly equivalent increase in leisure hours, and (b) increased time spent in gaming and computer leisure for younger men, 99 hours per year, comprises three quarters of that increase in leisure. Younger men increased their recreational computer use and video gaming by nearly 50 percent over this short period. Non-employed young men now average 520 hours a year in recreational computer time, sixty percent of that spent playing video games. This exceeds their time spent on home production or non-computer related socializing with friends.
Those are some absolutely staggering numbers.
But how can these young men get away with spending so much time playing video games? After all, don’t they have bills to pay?
Men ages 21 to 30 years old worked 12 percent fewer hours in 2015 than they did in 2000, the economists found. Around 15 percent of young men worked zero weeks in 2015, a rate nearly double that of 2000.
Since 2004, young men have increasingly allocated more of their free time to playing video games and other computer-related activities, according to the study. Thirty-five percent of young men are living at home with their parents or a close relative, up 12 percent since 2000.
This phenomenon is known as “extended adolescence”, and it is becoming a major societal problem.
In the old days, most young men in their twenties would be working hard, starting families and becoming solid members of their communities.
But these days, way too many young men are living in the basement with Mom and Dad and spending endless hours playing video games.
So what is going to happen when older generations of Americans start dying off and these guys are forced to become “the leaders of tomorrow”?
I love baseball, and one of the things that you learn when you follow baseball is that hitters tend to peak around the age of 27. Of course there are plenty of exceptions to this rule, but on average there is something very special about the age of 27.
The reason I bring this up is to show that in many ways men from the ages of 21 to 30 are in their prime years. If they are wasting those years playing video games, that is not a good thing for our society.
And of course this isn’t the first survey to find that so many young men are still living with their parents. Not too long ago, a Census Bureau report discovered that one out of every three 18 to 34-year-old Americans is still living at home…
According to the Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood report for 2016, one in three Americans ages 18 to 34 are living at home with their parents.
Coming in second place is living with a spouse (27 percent), followed by other (i.e. living with a roommate or other relatives, 21 percent), living with a boyfriend or girlfriend (12 percent) and living alone (8 percent).
The fact that only 27 percent of them are “living with a spouse” is particularly noteworthy. As I noted in a previous article, that number has fallen by more than half since 1975…
Did you know that the percentage of 18 to 34-year-old Americans that are married and living with a spouse has dropped by more than half since 1975? Back then, 57 percent of everyone in that age group “lived with a spouse”, but today that number has dropped to just 27 percent.
I have a new book coming out later this month, and in that book I am going to talk about some of the reasons why so few of our young people are getting married these days. Our culture tends to glamorize the “single lifestyle”, and it also tends to portray marriage as a “ball and chain” that needs to be put off for as long as possible. But studies have shown that married men tend to be happier, they tend to make more money, and they tend to live longer.
However, it is undeniably true that it can be very tough to start a family in today’s economic environment. The middle class is steadily shrinking, and millions of young people are working jobs that pay close to the minimum wage. So when you are barely scraping by, it can be quite intimidating to think about taking on all of the expenses that come with raising a child.
But as so many of us have learned, there never is a “perfect time” to have a child. Many of our parents really had to struggle to survive when we were young, and there is nothing wrong with that.
There is nothing that can replace the joy that family can bring, and we need to encourage our young people to embrace marriage and parenthood. The family is one of the fundamental building blocks of society, and without strong families there is no way that our country is going to have any sort of a positive future.
Did you know that the percentage of 18 to 34-year-old Americans that are married and living with a spouse has dropped by more than half since 1975? Back then, 57 percent of everyone in that age group “lived with a spouse”, but today that number has dropped to just 27 percent. These numbers come from “the Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood” report that was just released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Some are postulating that the reason for this dramatic cultural shift is a phenomenon known as “extended adolescence”, while others fear that large numbers of young men and/or young women are giving up on the concept of marriage altogether.
Instead of getting married and starting their own households, many young adults are deciding that living with Mom and Dad is the best approach. In fact, this new Census Bureau report found that one out of every three 18 to 34-year-old Americans is currently living with their parents…
According to the Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood report for 2016, one in three Americans ages 18 to 34 are living at home with their parents.
Coming in second place is living with a spouse (27 per cent), followed by other (i.e. living with a roommate or other relatives, 21 per cent), living with a boyfriend or girlfriend (12 per cent) and living alone (8 per cent).
Once the last recession ended, this trend was supposed to start reversing, but instead the number of young adults still living at home has just continued to increase. This is going to have very serious implications for our looming retirement crisis, and that is something that I am going to write about later today on End Of The American Dream.
And a lot of these young adults are not being productive members of society at all. In fact, this new report from the Census Bureau found that one out of every four 25 to 34-year-old Americans that are currently living at home do not have a job and they are not going to school either.
One of the most memorable Saturday Night Live sketches ever was broadcast in 1986 when guest host William Shatner played himself appearing at fictional Star Trek convention. After fielding one childish question after another from costumed fans in their late 20s and 30s, Shatner loses his cool and shouts: “GET A LIFE, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it’s just a TV show! … Move out of your parents’ basements! Get your own apartments and GROW THE HELL UP!”
Thirty-one years later, it sure seems like all of America needs to heed that message. Here’s why: The Census Bureau now says that more 18-34 year-olds are living with their parents than with a spouse.
But a lot of young men these days do not even want to go down the traditional route of marriage, family, career, etc.
In fact, a lot of them are forsaking the concept of marriage together. Author Suzanne Venker says that a lot of these men are blaming their lack of desire to get married on modern women…
“When I ask them why, the answer is always the same: women aren’t women anymore.” Feminism, which teaches women to think of men as the enemy, has made women “angry” and “defensive, though often unknowingly.”
“Now the men have nowhere to go. It is precisely this dynamic – women good/men bad – that has destroyed the relationship between the sexes. Yet somehow, men are still to blame when love goes awry.”
“Men are tired,” Venker wrote. “Tired of being told there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. Tired of being told that if women aren’t happy, it’s men’s fault.”
On the flip side, a lot of women are extremely distressed that so few men seem to have the willingness to commit these days. So many men just want to run around having sex with an endless series of women without ever putting a wedding ring on any of their fingers.
Of course many men figure that if they can get some of the best benefits of marriage (sex, companionship, etc.) without having to make a commitment then that is a pretty good deal for them.
But of course not all young adults that are living at home are doing it for the wrong reasons. Thanks to our long-term economic decline, it is much more difficult for young people to find good paying jobs today than it was several decades ago. The following comes from CNS News…
“More young men are falling to the bottom of the income ladder,” says the Census Bureau study. “In 1975, only 25 percent of men, aged 25 to 34, had incomes of less than $30,000 per year. By 2016, that share rose to 41 percent of young men (incomes for both years are in 2015 dollars).”
I have absolutely no problem at all with young adults that are living at home temporarily for economic reasons. These Millennials are simply victims of our failing economy, and thus we should not be so quick to judge them.
And many of these young people graduate from college already saddled with tremendous amounts of debt.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of going to college has increased by an astounding 63 percent since 2006. We assure our youngsters that they will get good paying jobs when they graduate that will enable them to pay off those student loans, but once they do finally graduate many of them are discovering that the good paying jobs that we promised them do not exist.
Today, Americans owe more than a trillion dollars on their student loans. It has become a major national crisis, and it is financially crippling an entire generation.
So the next time you hear of a young adult that is still living at home, don’t be so quick to judge until you know the facts.
Barack Obama is one of the biggest “Keynesians” of all time, but unfortunately most Americans don’t even understand what that means. In this article, I am going to share with you the primary reason why Barack Obama has been able to prop up the U.S. economy over the past eight years. If Barack Obama had not taken the extreme measures that he did, we would be in the midst of a historic economic depression right now. But by propping things up in the short-term, he has absolutely demolished our long-term economic future. But like most politicians, Obama has been willing to sacrifice the future for short-term political gain.
If you take any basic college course in economics, you are going to learn about John Maynard Keynes. Without a doubt, Keynes was one of the most famous economists of the 20th century, and one of the things that he believed was that governments should go into debt and spend more money when an economic downturn strikes. By injecting additional funds into the economy during a time of crisis, he believed that the severity of recessions and depressions could be reduced. This approach ultimately become known as “Keynesian economics”, and in the post-World War II era virtually the entire world embraced it at least to some degree. Here is more on Keynes from Investopedia…
An economic theory of total spending in the economy and its effects on output and inflation. Keynesian economics was developed by the British economistJohn Maynard Keynes during the 1930s in an attempt to understand the Great Depression. Keynes advocated increased government expenditures and lower taxes to stimulate demand and pull the global economy out of the Depression. Subsequently, the term “Keynesian economics” was used to refer to the concept that optimal economic performance could be achieved – and economic slumps prevented – by influencing aggregate demand through activist stabilization and economic intervention policies by the government. Keynesian economics is considered to be a “demand-side” theory that focuses on changes in the economy over the short run.
Keynesian economists correctly point out that there is a “multiplier effect” to government spending. In other words, when the government spends money it ends up in the hands of ordinary people. In turn, those people spend that money on various goods and services that they need, thus boosting overall economic activity. And the more the money circulates, the more the economy is stimulated. So one dollar of additional government spending does not just add one dollar to GDP. Rather, the impact on GDP is often significantly greater than that.
Of course the bad news is that whenever the government borrows money it is stealing consumption from the future. So we are literally destroying the future that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have in order to make the present look a little bit brighter.
When Barack Obama entered the White House, the U.S. was in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The Bush administration had already begun to ramp up spending, but Barack Obama took “government stimulus” to ridiculous new levels. The national debt has risen by an average of more than 1.1 trillion dollars a year while Obama has been in charge, and this fiscal year we are on pace to add more than 2 trillion dollars to the debt.
At this moment, the U.S. national debt is a whopping $19,901,545,151,126.51, and it will cross the 20 trillion dollar mark by the time Donald Trump is inaugurated on January 20th.
But when Barack Obama was inaugurated, the national debt was only 10.6 trillion dollars. That means that we have added about 9.3 trillion dollars to the debt since that time.
So we have borrowed and spent 9.3 trillion dollars under Obama that we did not have. But because of the “multiplier effect”, that 9.3 trillion dollars actually had a far greater impact on the U.S. economy.
Let’s be conservative and just double that number. So that would give us an 18.6 trillion dollar overall impact on U.S. economic activity. Spread over eight years, that comes to an average GDP impact of 2.325 trillion dollars a year.
But over the last eight years U.S. GDP has only been averaging about 16 trillion dollars a year. So if you took away 2.3 trillion dollars a year, that would be about one-eighth of our entire economy.
In other words, without all of this debt that Barack Obama and Congress have been getting us into, we would be in the worst economic depression in U.S. history right now.
And I haven’t even factored in state and local government debt, corporate debt or household debt. The truth is that I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that we are enjoying a debt-fueled standard of living that we simply do not deserve.
But even with all of this debt, the U.S. economy has still not been performing really well. In fact, Barack Obama is going to be the only president in U.S. history to not have a single year when U.S. GDP grew by at least three percent.
Donald Trump is talking about cutting taxes and reducing regulations, and all of those things are good, but ultimately those measures are not going to matter that much.
What is going to matter is what Donald Trump decides to do about our exploding debt.
If Donald Trump wants the U.S. economy to continue to remain at least somewhat stable in the short-term, he is going to have to keep piling up debt like Obama has. Because if Trump and the Republicans decide that they want to get our debt under control, that will plunge us into a horrifying economic depression almost immediately.
But if Donald Trump continues to steal money from future generations of Americans at the same pace that Barack Obama has been doing, he will literally be destroying the future of America. It will be a crime on a scale that is almost beyond words, and if they get a chance to do it, future generations of Americans will look back and curse him for what he has done to us.
So Donald Trump is really in a no-win situation when it comes to the economy.
The only way that he can match Obama’s performance is to do what Obama did, but by doing so he would literally be killing the future.
As a nation we have been consuming far more wealth than we produce for a very, very long time, and the only way that we have been able to do this is because we have been able to go into so much debt.
But now a day of reckoning is fast approaching, and I am not sure if Donald Trump even realizes that he will soon be faced with some incredibly heartbreaking choices.
What I am about to share with you is quite stunning. A well-respected financial expert that correctly predicted the last two stock market crashes is now warning that we are right on the verge of the next one. John Hussman is a former professor of economics and international finance at the University of Michigan, and the information in his latest weekly market comment is staggering. Since 1970, there have only been a handful of times when a combination of market signals that Hussman uses have indicated that a major market peak has been reached. In 1972, 2000 and 2007 each of those peaks was followed by a dramatic stock market crash. Now, for the first time since the last financial crisis, all four of those signals appeared once again during the week of July 17th. If Hussman’s analysis is correct, this could very well mean that the next great stock market crash in the United States is imminent.
It was an excellent article by Jim Quinn of the Burning Platform that first alerted me to Hussman’s latest warning. If you don’t follow Quinn’s work already, you should, because it is excellent.
When someone is repeatedly correct about the financial markets, we should all start paying attention. Back in late 2007, Hussman warned us about what was coming in 2008, but most people did not listen.
Now he is sounding the alarm again. According to Hussman, when there is a confluence of four key market indicators, that tells us that the market has peaked and is in danger of crashing. The following comes from Newsmax…
He cited the metric among the indicators that foreshadowed declines after peaks in 1972, 2000 and 2007:
*Less than 27 percent of investment advisers polled by Investors Intelligence who say they are bearish.
*Valuations measured by the Shiller price-to-earnings ratio are greater than 18 times.
*Less than 60 percent of S&P 500 stocks above their 200-day moving averages.
*Record high on a weekly closing basis.
“The most recent warning was the week ended July 17, 2015,” Hussman said. “It’s often said that they don’t ring a bell at the top, and that’s true in many cycles. But it’s interesting that the same ‘ding’ has been heard at the most extreme peaks among them.”
It is quite rare for the market to set a new record high on a weekly closing basis and have more than 40 percent of stocks below their 200-day moving averages at the same time. That is why a confluence of all these factors is fairly uncommon. Hussman elaborated on this in his recent report…
The remaining signals (record high on a weekly closing basis, fewer than 27% bears, Shiller P/E greater than 18, fewer than 60% of S&P 500 stocks above their 200-day average), are shown below. What’s interesting about these warnings is how closely they identified the precise market peak of each cycle. Internal divergences have to be fairly extensive for the S&P 500 to register a fresh overvalued, overbullish new high with more than 40% of its component stocks already falling – it’s evidently a rare indication of a last hurrah. The 1972 warning occurred on November 17, 1972, only 7 weeks and less than 4% from the final high before the market lost half its value. The 2000 warning occurred the week of March 24, 2000, marking the exact weekly high of that bull run. The 2007 instance spanned two consecutive weekly closing highs: October 5 and October 12. The final daily high of the S&P 500 was October 9 – right in between. The most recent warning was the week ended July 17, 2015.
The following is the chart that immediately followed the paragraph in his report that you just read…
When I first took a look at that chart I could hardly believe it.
It appears that Hussman’s signals are able to indicate major stock market crashes with stunning precision.
And considering the fact that we just hit a new “ding” for the first time since the last financial crisis, what Hussman is saying is more than just a little bit ominous.
According to Hussman this is not just a recent phenomenon either. Even though advisory sentiment figures were not available back in 1929, he believes that his indicators would have given a signal that a market crash was imminent in August of that year as well…
Though advisory sentiment figures aren’t available prior to the mid-1960’s, imputed data suggest that additional instances likely include the two consecutive weeks of August 19, 1929 and August 26, 1929. We can infer unfavorable market internals in that instance because we know that cumulative NYSE breadth was declining for months before the 1929 high. The week of the exact market peak would also be included except that stocks closed down that week after registering a final high on September 3, 1929. Another likely instance, based on imputed sentiment data, is the week of November 10, 1961, which was immediately followed by a market swoon into June 1962.
Of course the past is the past, and what has happened in the past will not necessarily happen in the future.
Other financial professionals are concerned that a market crash could be imminent as well. The following comes from a piece authored by Andrew Adams…
More than 13% of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange are at 52-week lows, which is about 6 standard deviations above the average over the last three years (1.62%) and an extreme only seen one other time during said period (last October when the S&P 500 was percentage points away from a 10% correction).
This dichotomy has created what I believe to be the biggest question about the stock market right now – have we already experienced a stealth correction in the majority of stocks that will soon come to an end or will the market leaders finally succumb to the weight of the laggards and join in on the sell-off? The answer to this could end up being worth at least $2.2 trillion, which is how much money would essentially be wiped out of the stock market if we finally get the much-discussed 10% correction in the overall market (the total U.S. stock market capitalization was $22.5 trillion as of June 30, according to the Center for Research in Security Prices).
Sometimes, a picture is worth more than a thousand words. I could share many more quotes from the “experts” about why they are concerned about a potential stock market collapse, but instead I want to share with you a “bonus chart” that Zero Hedge posted on Tuesday…
Do you understand what that is saying?
In 2007 and 2008, junk bonds started crashing well before stocks did.
Now, we are witnessing a similar divergence. If a similar pattern holds up this time, stocks have a long, long way to fall.
Like Hussman and so many others, I believe that a stock market crash and a new financial crisis are imminent.
The month of August is usually a slow month in the financial world, so hopefully we can get through it without too much chaos. But once we roll into the months of September and October we will officially be in “the danger zone”.
Keep an eye on China, keep an eye on Europe, and keep listening for serious trouble at “too big to fail” banks all over the planet.
The next several months are going to be extremely significant, and we all need to be getting ready while we still can.
The UN plans to launch a brand new plan for managing the entire globe at the Sustainable Development Summit that it will be hosting from September 25th to September 27th. Some of the biggest names on the planet, including Pope Francis, will be speaking at this summit. This new sustainable agenda focuses on climate change of course, but it also specifically addresses topics such as economics, agriculture, education and gender equality. For those wishing to expand the scope of “global governance”, sustainable development is the perfect umbrella because just about all human activity affects the environment in some way. The phrase “for the good of the planet” can be used as an excuse to micromanage virtually every aspect of our lives. So for those that are concerned about the growing power of the United Nations, this summit in September is something to keep an eye on. Never before have I seen such an effort to promote a UN summit on the environment, and this new sustainable development agenda is literally a framework for managing the entire globe.
The United Nations is now in the process of defining Sustainable Development Goals as part a new sustainable development agenda that must finish the job and leave no one behind. This agenda, to be launched at the Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, is currently being discussed at the UN General Assembly, where Member States and civil society are making contributions to the agenda.
The process of arriving at the post 2015 development agenda is Member State-led with broad participation from Major Groups and other civil society stakeholders. There have been numerous inputs to the agenda, notably a set of Sustainable Development Goals proposed by an open working group of the General Assembly, the report of an intergovernmental committee of experts on sustainable development financing, General Assembly dialogues on technology facilitation and many others.
Posted below are the 17 sustainable development goals that are being proposed so far. Some of them seem quite reasonable. After all, who wouldn’t want to “end poverty”. But as you go down this list, you soon come to realize that just about everything is involved in some way. In other words, this truly is a template for radically expanded “global governance”. Once again, this was taken directly from the official UN website…
1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
3. Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages
4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation
10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (taking note of agreements made by the UNFCCC forum)
14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss
16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development
As you can see, this list goes far beyond “saving the environment” or “fighting climate change”.
It truly covers just about every realm of human activity.
Another thing that makes this new sustainable development agenda different is the unprecedented support that it is getting from the Vatican and from Pope Francis himself.
In fact, Pope Francis is actually going to travel to the UN and give an address to kick off the Sustainable Development Summit on September 25th…
His Holiness Pope Francis will visit the UN on 25 September 2015, and give an address to the UN General Assembly immediately ahead of the official opening of the UN Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda.
This Pope has been very open about his belief that climate change is one of the greatest dangers currently facing our world. Just a couple of weeks ago, he actually brought UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the Vatican to speak about climate change and sustainable development. Here is a summary of what happened…
On 28 April, the Secretary-General met with His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican and later addressed senior religious leaders, along with the Presidents of Italy and Ecuador, Nobel laureates and leading scientists on climate change and sustainable development.
Amidst an unusually heavy rainstorm in Rome, participants at the historic meeting gathered within the ancient Vatican compound to discuss what the Secretary-General has called the “defining challenge of our time.”
The mere fact that a meeting took place between the religious and scientific communities on climate change was itself newsworthy. That it took place at the Vatican, was hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and featured the Secretary-General as the keynote speaker was all the more striking.
In addition, Pope Francis is scheduled to release a major encyclical this summer which will be primarily focused on the environment and climate change. The following comes from the New York Times…
The much-anticipated environmental encyclical that Pope Francis plans to issue this summer is already being translated into the world’s major languages from the Latin final draft, so there’s no more tweaking to be done, several people close to the process have told me in recent weeks.
I think that we can get a good idea of the kind of language that we will see in this encyclical from another Vatican document which was recently released. It is entitled “Climate Change and The Common Good”, and it was produced by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The following is a brief excerpt…
Unsustainable consumption coupled with a record human population and the uses of inappropriate technologies are causally linked with the destruction of the world’s sustainability and resilience. Widening inequalities of wealth and income, the world-wide disruption of the physical climate system and the loss of millions of species that sustain life are the grossest manifestations of unsustainability. The continued extraction of coal, oil and gas following the “business-as-usual mode” will soon create grave existential risks for the poorest three billion, and for generations yet unborn. Climate change resulting largely from unsustainable consumption by about 15% of the world’s population has become a dominant moral and ethical issue for society. There is still time to mitigate unmanageable climate changes and repair ecosystem damages, provided we reorient our attitude toward nature and, thereby, toward ourselves. Climate change is a global problem whose solution will depend on our stepping beyond national affiliations and coming together for the common good. Such transformational changes in attitudes would help foster the necessary institutional reforms and technological innovations for providing the energy sources that have negligible effect on global climate, atmospheric pollution and eco-systems, thus protecting generations yet to be born. Religious institutions can and should take the lead in bringing about that change in attitude towards Creation.
The Catholic Church, working with the leadership of other religions, can now take a decisive role by mobilizing public opinion and public funds to meet the energy needs of the poorest 3 billion people, thus allowing them to prepare for the challenges of unavoidable climate and eco-system changes. Such a bold and humanitarian action by the world’s religions acting in unison is certain to catalyze a public debate over how we can integrate societal choices, as prioritized under UN’s sustainable development goals, into sustainable economic development pathways for the 21st century, with projected population of 10 billion or more.
Under this Pope, the Vatican has become much more political than it was before, and sustainable development has become the Vatican’s number one political issue.
And did you notice the language about “the world’s religions acting in unison”? Clearly, the Vatican believes that it has the power to mobilize religious leaders all over the planet and have them work together to achieve the “UN’s sustainable development goals”.
I can never remember a time when the United Nations and the largest religious institution on the planet, the Catholic Church, have worked together so closely.
So what will the end result of all this be?
Should we be concerned about this new sustainable development agenda?
Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…
The Chinese do not plan to live in a world dominated by the U.S. dollar for much longer. Chinese leaders have been calling for the U.S. dollar to be replaced as the primary global reserve currency for a long time, but up until now they have never been very specific about what they would put in place of it. Many have assumed that the Chinese simply wanted some new international currency to be created. But what if that is not what the Chinese had in mind? What if they have always wanted their own currency to become the single most dominant currency on the entire planet? What you are about to see is rather startling, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. When it comes to economics and finance, the Chinese have always been playing chess while the western world has been playing checkers. Sadly, we have gotten to the point where checkmate is on the horizon.
On Wednesday, I came across an excellent article by Simon Black. What he had to say in that article just about floored me…
When I arrived to Bangkok the other day, coming down the motorway from the airport I saw a huge billboard—and it floored me.
The billboard was from the Bank of China. It said: “RMB: New Choice; The World Currency”
Given that the Bank of China is more than 70% owned by the government of the People’s Republic of China, I find this very significant.
It means that China is literally advertising its currency overseas, and it’s making sure that everyone landing at one of the world’s busiest airports sees it. They know that the future belongs to them and they’re flaunting it.
This is the photograph of that billboard that he posted with his article…
Everyone knows that China is rising.
And most everyone has assumed that Chinese currency would soon play a larger role in international trade.
But things have moved so rapidly in recent years that now a very large chunk of the financial world actually expects the renminbi to replace the dollar as the primary reserve currency of the planet someday. The following comes from CNBC…
The tightly controlled Chinese yuan will eventually supersede the dollar as the top international reserve currency, according to a new poll of institutional investors.
The survey of 200 institutional investors – 100 headquartered in mainland China and 100 outside of it – published by State Street and the Economist Intelligence Unit on Thursday found 53 percent of investors think the renminbi will surpass the U.S. dollar as the world’s major reserve currency.
Optimism was higher within China, where 62 percent said they saw a redback world on the horizon, compared with 43 percent outside China.
And without a doubt we are starting to see the beginnings of a significant shift.
China’s yuan broke into the top five as a world payment currency in November, overtaking the Canadian dollar and the Australian dollar, global transaction services organization SWIFT said on Wednesday.
The U.S. dollar won’t be replaced overnight, but things are changing.
Of course the truth is that the Chinese have been preparing for this for a very long time. The Chinese refuse to tell the rest of the world exactly how much gold they have, but everyone knows that they have been accumulating enormous amounts of it. And even if they don’t explicitly back the renminbi with gold, the massive gold reserves that China is accumulating will still give the rest of the planet a great deal of confidence in Chinese currency.
But don’t just take my word for it. Consider what Alan Greenspan has had to say on the matter…
Alan Greenspan, who served at the helm of the Federal Reserve for nearly two decades, recently penned an op-ed for the Council on Foreign Relations discussing gold and its possible role in China, the world’s second-largest economy. He notes that if China converted only a “relatively modest part of its $4 trillion foreign exchange reserves into gold, the country’s currency could take on unexpected strength in today’s international financial system.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese have also been accumulating a tremendous amount of U.S. debt. At this point, the Chinese own approximately 1.3 trillion dollars worth of our debt, and that gives them a lot of power over our currency and over our financial system.
Someday if the Chinese wanted to undermine confidence in the U.S. dollar and in the U.S. financial system, they have a lot of ammunition at their disposal.
And it isn’t just all of that debt that gives China leverage. In recent years, the Chinese have been buying up real estate, businesses and energy assets all over the United States at a staggering pace. For a small taste of what has been taking place, check out the YouTube video posted below…
For much, much more on this trend, please see the following articles…
On a purchasing power basis, the size of the Chinese economy has already surpassed the size of the U.S. economy.
And there are lots of signs of trouble ahead for the U.S. economy at this point. I like how Brandon Smith put it in one recent article…
We are only two months into 2015, and it has already proven to be the most volatile year for the economic environment since 2008-2009. We have seen oil markets collapsing by about 50 percent in the span of a few months (just as the Federal Reserve announced the end of QE3, indicating fiat money was used to hide falling demand), the Baltic Dry Index losing 30 percent since the beginning of the year, the Swiss currency surprise, the Greeks threatening EU exit (and now Greek citizens threatening violent protests with the new four-month can-kicking deal), and the effects of the nine-month-long West Coast port strike not yet quantified. This is not just a fleeting expression of a negative first quarter; it is a sign of things to come.
In addition, things continue to look quite bleak for Europe. Once upon a time, many expected the euro to overtake the U.S. dollar as the primary global reserve currency, but that didn’t happen. And in recent months the euro has been absolutely crashing. On Wednesday, it hit the lowest point that we have seen against the dollar in more than a decade…
The euro last stood at $1.1072, off 0.90 percent for the day and below a key support level, Sutton said. It fell to as little as $1.1066, which was the lowest level for the euro against the dollar since September 2003, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The euro also declined to one-month lows against the Japanese yen, which was flat against the dollar at 119.72 yen to the dollar.
As the U.S. and Europe continue to struggle, China is going to want a significantly larger role on the global stage.
And as the billboard in Thailand suggests, they are more than willing to step up to the plate.
So will the road to the future be paved with Chinese currency? Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…
During his State of the Union speech on Tuesday evening, Barack Obama is going to promise to make life better for middle class families. Of course he has also promised to do this during all of his other State of the Union addresses, but apparently he still believes that there are people out there that are buying what he is selling. Each January, he gets up there and tells us how the economy is “turning around” and to believe that much brighter days are right around the corner. And yet things just continue to get even worse for the middle class. The numbers that you are about to see will not be included in Obama’s State of the Union speech. They don’t fit the “narrative” that Obama is trying to sell to the American people. But all of these statistics are accurate. They paint a picture of a middle class that is dying. Yes, the decline of the U.S. middle class is a phenomenon that has been playing out for decades. But without a doubt, our troubles have accelerated during the Obama years. When it comes to economics, he is completely and utterly clueless, and the policies that he has implemented are eating away at the foundations of our economy like a cancer. The following are 27 facts that show how the middle class has fared under 6 years of Barack Obama…
#1 American families in the middle 20 percent of the income scale now earn less money than they did on the day when Barack Obama first entered the White House.
#2 American families in the middle 20 percent of the income scale have a lower net worth than they did on the day when Barack Obama first entered the White House.
#3 According to a Washington Post article published just a few days ago, more than 50 percent of the children in U.S. public schools now come from low income homes. This is the first time that this has happened in at least 50 years.
#4 According to a Census Bureau report that was recently released, 65 percent of all children in the United States are living in a home that receives some form of aid from the federal government.
#5 In 2008, the total number of business closures exceeded the total number of businesses being created for the first time ever, and that has continued to happen every single year since then.
#6 In 2008, 53 percent of all Americans considered themselves to be “middle class”. But by 2014, only 44 percent of all Americans still considered themselves to be “middle class”.
#7 In 2008, 25 percent of all Americans in the 18 to 29-year-old age bracket considered themselves to be “lower class”. But in 2014, an astounding 49 percent of all Americans in that age range considered themselves to be “lower class”.
#8 Traditionally, owning a home has been one of the key indicators that you belong to the middle class. So what does the fact that the rate of homeownership in America has been falling for seven years in a row say about the Obama years?
#9 According to a survey that was conducted last year, 52 percent of all Americans cannot even afford the house that they are living in right now.
#10 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.
#11 According to one recent survey, 62 percent of all Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck.
#12 At this point, one out of every three adults in the United States has an unpaid debt that is “in collections“.
#13 When Barack Obama first set foot in the Oval Office, 60.6 percent of all working age Americans had a job. Today, that number is sitting at only 59.2 percent…
#14 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the average duration of unemployment in the United States has risen from 19.8 weeks to 32.8 weeks.
#15 It is hard to believe, but an astounding 53 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
#18 The U.S. national debt is on pace to approximately double during the eight years of the Obama administration. In other words, under Barack Obama the U.S. government will accumulate about as much debt as it did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.
#19 According to the New York Times, the “typical American household” is now worth 36 percent less than it was worth a decade ago.
#20 The poverty rate in the United States has been at 15 percent or above for 3 consecutive years. This is the first time that has happened since 1965.
#21 From 2009 through 2013, the U.S. government spent a whopping 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs.
#22 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the number of Americans on food stamps has gone from 32 million to 46 million.
#23 Ten years ago, the number of women in the U.S. that had full-time 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 full-time jobs.
#24 One recent survey discovered that about 22 percent of all Americans have had to turn to a church food panty for assistance.
#25 An astounding 45 percent of all African-American children in the United States live in areas of “concentrated poverty”.
#2640.9 percent of all children in the United States that are living with only one parent are living in poverty.
#27 According to a report that was released late last year by the National Center on Family Homelessness, the number of homeless children in the United States has reached a new all-time record high of 2.5 million.
Why have we turned our backs on the principles that this nation was founded upon? Many of those that founded this nation bled and died so that we could experience “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. And yet we have tossed their ideals aside as if they were so much rubbish. Our founders had experienced the tyranny of big government (the monarchy) and the tyranny of the big banks and feudal lords, and they wanted something very different for the citizens of the new republic that they were forming. They wanted a country where private property was respected and hard work was rewarded. They wanted a country where the individual was empowered, and where everyone could own land and start businesses. They wanted a country where there were severe restrictions on all large collections of power (government, banks and corporations all included). They wanted a country where freedom and liberty were maximized and where ordinary people had the power to pursue their dreams and build better lives for their families. And you know what? While no system is ever perfect, the experiment that our founders originally set up worked beyond their wildest dreams. But now we are killing it. Why in the world would we want to do that?
Most people are under the illusion that the United States has a “capitalist economy” today, but that simply is not accurate. At best, we have a “mixed economy” that is becoming a little bit more socialist with each passing day. We pay dozens of different types of taxes each year, and some Americans actually end up giving more of their earnings to the government than they keep themselves. But that is still not enough, and so our state governments have accumulated astounding amounts of debt, and our federal government has amassed the largest single debt that the world has ever seen. If future generations of Americans get the chance, they will curse us for the chains of debt that we have placed upon their shoulders.
So what do our government officials do with all of this money?
Well, today approximately 70 percent of all federal government activity involves taking money from some Americans and giving it to other Americans.
Despite this unprecedented wealth-redistribution program, poverty is absolutely exploding in this country and 49 million Americans are dealing with food insecurity.
Meanwhile, the bankers have been getting fabulously wealthy from all of this debt. The Federal Reserve system was designed to trap the U.S. government in an endless spiral of debt from which it could never possibly escape, and that mission has been accomplished. In fact, the U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created a little more than 100 years ago.
Most people like to think of big banks as “capitalist” institutions, but that is not really accurate. In the end, giant corporate banks like we have in the United States are actually collectivist institutions. They tend to greatly concentrate wealth and power, and socialists find those kinds of banks very useful.
In fact, Vladimir Lenin once said that “without big banks, socialism would be impossible.”
While there may be a bit of animosity between big government and big banks once in a while, the truth is that they are usually very closely tied to one another. We saw this close relationship very clearly during the financial crisis of 2008, and it is no secret that there is a revolving door between the boardrooms of Wall Street and the halls of power in Washington. The elite dominate both spheres, and it is not for the benefit of the rest of us.
What we are doing right now is clearly not working.
So why don’t we go back and do the things that we were doing when we were extremely successful as a nation?
In case you don’t know what those things were, here are some clues…
#1 “A wise and frugal government… shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” — Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801
#2 “A people… who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything.” – George Washington
#3 “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own.” – James Madison, Essay on Property, 1792
#4 “Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they can have done or ever will do good.” – John Adams
#5 “To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816
#6 “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.” — John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787
#7 “I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. If we run into such debts, we must be taxed in our meat and drink, in our necessities and in our comforts, in our labor and in our amusements.” – Thomas Jefferson
#8 “Beware the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry.” – Thomas Paine
#9 “If we can but prevent the government from wasting the labours of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.” – Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, November 29, 1802
#10 “All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise not from defects in the Constitution or Confederation, not from a want of honor or virtue so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.” – John Adams, at the Constitutional Convention (1787)
#11 “The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” – Thomas Jefferson
#12 “Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.” – John Adams, 1765
#13 “If ever again our nation stumbles upon unfunded paper, it shall surely be like death to our body politic. This country will crash.” – George Washington
#14 “I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.” – Thomas Jefferson
#15 “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” — Benjamin Franklin
The marriage rate in the United States has fallen to the lowest level ever recorded. So why is this happening? Well, the truth is that there are a lot of reasons why so many young people are choosing not to get married today. One big reason is money. Young adults in the U.S. are really struggling to find good jobs, and many are hesitant to take a big step like marriage without achieving a certain level of financial security first. And as you will see below, many young adults (especially women) do not even want to date someone that is not employed. In this harsh economic environment, money makes a big difference in the world of romance. Another big reason for the decline of marriage in America is a seismic shift in cultural attitudes. Americans (especially young people) do not place the same kind of importance on marriage and having children that they once did. Instead, more Americans are choosing to “move in together” than ever before. But if the percentage of Americans that choose to get married continues to decline, what is that going to mean for our future, and what is our country going to look like moving forward?
According to a startling new study conducted at Bowling Green University, the marriage rate in America has fallen precipitously over the past 100 years.
In 1920, there were 92.3 marriages for every 1,000 unmarried women. In 2012, there were only 31.1 marriages for every 1,000 unmarried women.
That is not just a new all-time low, that is a colossal demographic earthquake.
That same study found that the marriage rate has fallen by an astounding 60 percent since 1970 alone.
As a result, U.S. households look far different today than they once did.
Back in 1950, 78 percent of all households in the U.S. contained a married couple. Today, that number has declined to 48 percent.
That is a very troubling sign if you consider the family to be one of the fundamental building blocks of society.
When young people are asked why they are delaying marriage today, one of the things that always seems to get brought up is money. There is a feeling (especially among men) that you should achieve a certain level of financial security before making the big plunge.
And it is a fact that the more money you have, the more likely you are to be married. Just check out the following stats about income and marriage from a recent Business Insider article…
83% of 30- to 50-year-old men in the top 10% of annual earnings are married today, whereas only 64% of median earners and half of those in the bottom 25th percentile are hitched.
Now, compare that to men in 1970, whose marriage rates were 95% (top earners), 91% (median earners), and 60% (bottom 25th percentile of earners), respectively.
A lot of people like to think that “love is the only thing that matters” when it comes to marriage, but the cold, hard numbers tell a different story. In fact, one very shocking survey discovered that 75 percent of all American women would have a problem even dating an unemployed man…
Of the 925 single women surveyed, 75 percent said they’d have a problem with dating someone without a job. Only 4 percent of respondents asked whether they would go out with an unemployed man answered “of course.”
“Not having a job will definitely make it harder for men to date someone they don’t already know,” Irene LaCota, a spokesperson for It’s Just Lunch, said in a press release. “This is the rare area, compared to other topics we’ve done surveys on, where women’s old-fashioned beliefs about sex roles seem to apply.”
Unfortunately for American men, there simply are not enough good jobs to go around. In fact, the number of working age Americans without a job has increased by 27 million since the year 2000, and businesses in the U.S. are being destroyed faster than they are being created.
Due to a lack of economic opportunities, a rising percentage of our young people have been giving up on the “real world” and have been moving back in with Mom and Dad. For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “29 Percent Of All U.S. Adults Under The Age Of 35 Are Living With Their Parents“. And when you break down the numbers, you find that young men are almost twice as likely to move back in with their parents as young women are.
But economic factors alone certainly do not account for the tremendous decline in the marriage rate that we have witnessed in this country. Shifting cultural attitudes also play a huge role.
A whole host of opinion polls and surveys show that Americans simply do not value marriage and having children as much as they once did. For example, the Pew Research Center has found that the younger you are, the more likely you are to believe that “marriage is becoming obsolete” and that “children don’t need a mother and a father to grow up happily”.
In fact, an astounding 44 percent of all Americans in the 18 to 29-year-old age bracket now believe that “marriage is becoming obsolete”.
And why should they get married? Our movies and television shows constantly tell them that they can have the benefits of being married without ever having to make a lifelong commitment.
This sounds particularly good to men, since they can run around and have sex with lots of different women without ever having to “settle down”.
But there are most definitely consequences for this behavior. The “sexual revolution” has left behind countless broken hearts, shattered dreams, unintended pregnancies and devastated families.
In addition, the U.S. has become a world leader when it comes to sexually-transmitted disease.
It is hard to believe this number, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approximately one-third of the entire population of the United States (110 million people) currently has a sexually transmitted disease.
So nobody should claim that the “sexual revolution” has not had any consequences.
But most Americans don’t actually run around and sleep with lots of different people at the same time. Instead, most Americans seem to have adopted a form of “serial monogamy“.
In America today, most people only sleep with one person at a time, and “living together” is being called “the new marriage”.
According to the CDC, 74 percent of all 30-year-old women in the U.S. say that they have cohabitated with a romantic partner without being married to them, and it has been estimated that 65 percent of all couples that get married in the United States live together first.
Many believe that by “trying out” the other person first that it will give them a much better chance of making marriage work if they eventually do choose to go down that path. Unfortunately, that does not seem to work out very well in practice. In fact, the divorce rate for couples that live together first is significantly higher than for those that do not.
And when it comes to divorce, America is the king.
For years, the U.S. has had the highest divorce rate in the developed world.
But it wasn’t always this way. Back in 1920, less than one percent of all women in the United States were currently divorced or separated. Today, approximately 15 percent of all women in the United States are currently divorced or separated.
So why are so many people getting divorced?
Of course there are a lot of factors involved (including money), but a big one is cheating. According to one survey, 41 percent of all spouses admit to infidelity. Many Americans simply find it very difficult to stay committed to one person for an extended period of time.
As a result of what I have discussed so far, it is easy to see why people in our society are so lonely and so isolated. Less people are getting married, more divorces are happening and couples are having fewer children. This means that our households are smaller and we have far fewer family connections than we once did.
100 years ago, 4.52 people were living in the average U.S. household, but now the average U.S. household only consists of 2.59 people.
And of course when there is no marriage involved, a lot of times the guy does not stick around. At this point, approximately one out of every three children in the United States lives in a home without a father, and in many impoverished areas of the country the rate is well over 50 percent.
In addition, women are waiting much longer to have children than they once did.
In 1970, the average woman had her first child when she was 21.4 years old. Now the average woman has her first child when she is 25.6 years old.
The biggest reason for this, once again, is money…
In the United States, three-quarters of people surveyed by Gallup last year said the main reason couples weren’t having more children was a lack of money or fear of the economy.
The trend emerges as a key gauge of future economic health — the growth in the pool of potential workers, ages 20-64 — is signaling trouble ahead. This labor pool had expanded for decades, thanks to the vast generation of baby boomers. Now the boomers are retiring, and there are barely enough new workers to replace them, let alone add to their numbers.
We are waiting longer to have children and having fewer of them, but those children are needed for the economic future of this country.
Fifteen years from now, one out of every five Americans will be over the age of 65. All of those elderly Americans are going to want the rest of us to keep the financial promises that were made to them. But that is going to turn out to be quite impossible. We simply do not have enough people.
In the end, the economics of marriage does not just affect those that are thinking of getting married or those that are already married.
The truth is that the economics of marriage affects all of us.
So what do you think is in store for the future of the institution of marriage in this country?
Please feel free to share what you believe by posting a comment below…
If you want to get an idea of where the rest of America is heading, just take a trip through the western half of West Virginia and the eastern half of Kentucky some time. Once you leave the main highways, you will rapidly encounter poverty on a level that is absolutely staggering. Overall, about 15 percent of the entire nation is under the poverty line, but in some areas of eastern Kentucky, more than 40 percent of the population is living in poverty. Most of the people would work if they could. Over the past couple of decades, locals have witnessed businesses and industries leave the region at a steady pace. When another factory or business shuts down, many of the unemployed do not even realize that their jobs have been shipped overseas. Coal mining still produces jobs that pay a decent wage, but Barack Obama is doing his very best to kill off that entire industry. After decades of decline, vast stretches of impoverished Appalachia look like they have been through a war. Those living in the area know that things are not good, but they just try to do the best that they can with what they have.
In previous articles about areas of the country that are economically depressed, I have typically focused on large cities such as Detroit or Camden, New Jersey. But the economic suffering that is taking place in rural communities in the heartland of America is just as tragic. We just don’t hear about it as much.
Most of those that live in the heart of Appalachia are really good “salt of the earth” people that just want to work hard and do what is right for their families. But after decades of increasing poverty, the entire region has been transformed into an economic nightmare that never seems to end. The following is a description of what life is like in Appalachia today that comes from a recent article by Kevin D. Williamson…
Thinking about the future here and its bleak prospects is not much fun at all, so instead of too much black-minded introspection you have the pills and the dope, the morning beers, the endless scratch-off lotto cards, healing meetings up on the hill, the federally funded ritual of trading cases of food-stamp Pepsi for packs of Kentucky’s Best cigarettes and good old hard currency, tall piles of gas-station nachos, the occasional blast of meth, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, petty crime, the draw, the recreational making and surgical unmaking of teenaged mothers, and death: Life expectancies are short — the typical man here dies well over a decade earlier than does a man in Fairfax County, Va. — and they are getting shorter, women’s life expectancy having declined by nearly 1.1 percent from 1987 to 2007.
In these kinds of conditions, people do whatever they have to do just to survive. With so much poverty around, serving those on food stamps has become an important part of the local economy. In fact, cases of soda purchased with food stamps have become a form of “alternative currency” in the region. In his article, Williamson described how this works…
It works like this: Once a month, the debit-card accounts of those receiving what we still call food stamps are credited with a few hundred dollars — about $500 for a family of four, on average — which are immediately converted into a unit of exchange, in this case cases of soda. On the day when accounts are credited, local establishments accepting EBT cards — and all across the Big White Ghetto, “We Accept Food Stamps” is the new E pluribus unum – are swamped with locals using their public benefits to buy cases and cases — reports put the number at 30 to 40 cases for some buyers — of soda. Those cases of soda then either go on to another retailer, who buys them at 50 cents on the dollar, in effect laundering those $500 in monthly benefits into $250 in cash — a considerably worse rate than your typical organized-crime money launderer offers — or else they go into the local black-market economy, where they can be used as currency in such ventures as the dealing of unauthorized prescription painkillers — by “pillbillies,” as they are known at the sympathetic establishments in Florida that do so much business with Kentucky and West Virginia that the relevant interstate bus service is nicknamed the “OxyContin Express.” A woman who is intimately familiar with the local drug economy suggests that the exchange rate between sexual favors and cases of pop — some dealers will accept either — is about 1:1, meaning that the value of a woman in the local prescription-drug economy is about $12.99 at Walmart prices.
I would encourage everyone to read the rest of Williamson’s excellent article. You can find the entire article right here.
In Appalachia, the abuse of alcohol, meth and other legal and illegal drugs is significantly higher than in the U.S. population as a whole. In a desperate attempt to deal with the pain of their lives, many people living in the region are looking for anything that will allow them to “escape” for a little while. The following is an excerpt from an excellent article by Chris Hedges which describes what life is like in the little town of Gary, West Virginia at this point…
Joe and I are sitting in the Tug River Health Clinic in Gary with a registered nurse who does not want her name used. The clinic handles federal and state black lung applications. It runs a program for those addicted to prescription pills. It also handles what in the local vernacular is known as “the crazy check” — payments obtained for mental illness from Medicaid or SSI — a vital source of income for those whose five years of welfare payments have run out. Doctors willing to diagnose a patient as mentally ill are important to economic survival.
“They come in and want to be diagnosed as soon as they can for the crazy check,” the nurse says. “They will insist to us they are crazy. They will tell us, ‘I know I’m not right.’ People here are very resigned. They will avoid working by being diagnosed as crazy.”
The reliance on government checks, and a vast array of painkillers and opiates, has turned towns like Gary into modern opium dens. The painkillers OxyContin, fentanyl — 80 times stronger than morphine — Lortab, as well as a wide variety of anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, are widely abused. Many top off their daily cocktail of painkillers at night with sleeping pills and muscle relaxants. And for fun, addicts, especially the young, hold “pharm parties,” in which they combine their pills in a bowl, scoop out handfuls of medication, swallow them, and wait to feel the result.
Of course this kind of thing is not just happening in the heart of Appalachia. All over the country there are rural communities that are economically depressed. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, economic activity in about half of the counties in the entire nation is still below pre-recession levels…
Did you know that the Obama administration is negotiating a super secret “trade agreement” that is so sensitive that he isn’t even allowing members of Congress to see it? The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being called the “NAFTA of the Pacific” and “NAFTA on steroids”, but the truth is that it is so much more than just a trade agreement. This treaty has 29 chapters, but only 5 of them have to do with trade. Most Americans don’t realize this, but this treaty will fundamentally change our laws regarding Internet freedom, health care, the trading of derivatives, copyright issues, food safety, environmental standards, civil liberties and so much more. It will also merge the United States far more deeply into the emerging one world economic system.
Once again, our politicians are betraying the American people and millions of jobs will be lost as a result.
But now the ongoing economic collapse seems to be picking up steam again. For example, the Baltic Dry Index (a very important indicator of global economic activity) is collapsing at a rate not seen since the great financial crash of 2008…
Despite ‘blaming’ the drop in the cost of dry bulk shipping on Colombian coal restrictions, it seems increasingly clear that the 40% collapse in the Baltic Dry Index since the start of the year is more than just that. While this is the worst start to a year in over 30 years, the scale of this meltdown is only matched by the total devastation that occurred in Q3 2008. Of course, the mainstream media will continue to ignore this dour index until it decides to rise once again, but for now, 9 days in a row of plunging prices is yet another canary in the global trade coalmine and suggests what inventory stacking that occurred in Q3/4 2013 is anything but sustained.
Soon economic conditions will get even worse for Appalachia and for the rest of the country. The consequences of decades of very foolish decisions are rapidly catching up with us, and millions upon millions of Americans are going to experience immense economic pain during the years to come.
So what are things like in your area of the country right now? Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…