UNSUSTAINABLE

When it comes to explaining the problems with our economy, one of the hardest things to do is to get people to understand that we are living in an economic fantasy world that is completely and totally unsustainable.  As a nation we consume far more than we produce, we spend far more than we bring in, our debt is growing much faster than our GDP is, our entitlement programs are growing at an exponential rate, our retirement system is a Ponzi scheme and the Federal Reserve is printing money as if there is no tomorrow in a desperate attempt to paper over all of our problems.  But we have all grown so accustomed to the debt-fueled prosperity that we have been enjoying for so many decades that it actually feels “real” to most of us.  Unfortunately, history has shown us that it is simply not possible to grow your debt faster than your economy indefinitely.  At some point your consumption will drop back to a level more equal to your production.    Sometimes that adjustment can be gradual, but other times it can be extremely painful.  In our case, we have been living way above our means for so long that it would take a major economic miracle just to keep our adjustment to an “exceedingly painful” level.  We are living in the largest debt-fueled prosperity bubble in the history of the world, and our unsustainable economy is going to crash and burn at some point.  Hopefully it will be later rather than sooner, but a crash is most definitely coming.

The following are some of the reasons why the bubble economy that we are living in right now is unsustainable….

The Trade Deficit

Most Americans do not really understand what a “trade deficit” is, but it is at the very core of our economic problems.

Basically, we buy far more stuff from the rest of the world than they buy from us.  We send them huge piles of our money, and they send us oil that we burn in our cars and cheap plastic products that we end up throwing away.  We keep doing this month after month after month, and this is systematically making us poorer as a nation.

In 2012, it is being projected that our trade deficit will fall somewhere between 500 billion and 600 billion dollars.

At this point, the United States has a trade imbalance that is more than 7 times larger than any other nation on earth has.

Overall, the United States has run a trade deficit of more than 8 trillion dollars with the rest of the world since 1975.

Instead of going out of the country, those 8 trillion dollars could have gone to U.S. businesses and U.S. workers.  In turn, taxes would have been paid on those 8 trillion dollars and our debt problems would not be nearly as dramatic today.

But we didn’t do that.

We chose to allow tens of thousands of businesses, millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of our national wealth to leave the country.

Stupid move, eh?

But both political parties have been endlessly pushing the “free trade” agenda.  They have both promised that it would bring us tremendous prosperity.

Well, just take a look at our formerly great manufacturing cities today.  Do they look prosperous to you?

It turns out that Ross Perot was right when he warned about the “giant sucking sound” that would happen if NAFTA was implemented.

When NAFTA was pushed through Congress in 1993, the United States had a trade surplus with Mexico of 1.6 billion dollars.  By 2010, we had a trade deficit with Mexico of 61.6 billion dollars.

That didn’t work out so well, did it?

What about opening up trade with China?

Back in 1985, our trade deficit with China was approximately 6 million dollars (million with a little “m”) for the entire year.

In 2011, our trade deficit with China was 295.4 billion dollars.  That was the largest trade deficit that one nation has had with another nation in the history of the world.

Our trade with China is tremendously unbalanced.  Today, U.S. consumers spend approximately 4 dollars on goods and services from China for every one dollar that Chinese consumers spend on goods and services from the United States.

This is a huge reason why shiny new factories are going up all over China, and our blue collar cities are turning into rotting war zones filled with unemployed people.

If you can believe it, the United States has actually lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001.

Until we fix the trade deficit we are going to continue bleeding factories, jobs and national wealth at an astounding pace.

The National Debt

It is being projected that U.S. GDP will grow at a rate of about 2.2 percent this year.

The problem is that our federal budget deficit will be somewhere around 7 percent of GDP this year.

With each passing day we are losing ground.  No other nation on earth has been able to run up debt like this indefinitely, and neither will we.

Does this chart look like a healthy situation to you?….

Sadly, all of this government debt is just about the only thing holding up our economy at this point.  Since Barack Obama has been in the White House, the U.S. national debt has increased by about 5.5 trillion dollars.  Of course the Obama administration has spent a lot of that money on incredibly stupid stuff, but it still gets into the pockets of average Americans that in turn spend it on food, gas, mortgage payments, etc.

If we could go back in time and suck that 5.5 trillion dollars of extra spending out of the economy we would be in a horrible economic depression right now.

But that does not mean that borrowing and spending all of that money was the right thing to do.  We have stolen it from our children and our grandchildren and we are going to stick them with the bill.

That is highly immoral and it is a national disgrace.

Yet we continue to do it because we can’t help ourselves.  We are ruining the future of this nation in order to make the present more pleasant for ourselves.

As I noted yesterday, the U.S. national debt jumped more on the very first day of fiscal year 2013 than it did from 1776 to 1941 combined.

We are completely addicted to debt and we can’t stop.  We know that we are destroying the future of the United States but we have absolutely no self-discipline.

By the end of Barack Obama’s first term, the U.S. government will have accumulated more debt during those four years than it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that George W. Bush took office.

But most Americans seem fine with that.

Most Americans don’t even really know why this is happening, and most don’t really seem too concerned about finding out.  They just want the good times to continue to roll.

Sadly, the truth is that our financial system is designed to create government debt.  It is one of the primary purposes of the Federal Reserve system.

At this point, the U.S. national debt is more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.

So I guess you could say that the Federal Reserve is doing a good job of what it was designed to do.

And until we change the system things are going to continue to get worse until the entire system collapses.

Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff is warning that we are basically facing financial armageddon if something is not done.  Kotlikoff speaks of a “fiscal gap” which he defines as “the present value difference between projected future spending and revenue”.  His calculations have led him to the conclusion that the United States is facing a fiscal gap of 222 trillion dollars in the years ahead.

Where in the world are we going to get an extra 222 trillion dollars?

Entitlements

Every society needs a safety net, but we are rapidly getting to the point where there are going to be more Americans on the safety net than there are Americans supporting it.

Back in 1983, less than 30 percent of all Americans lived in a home where at least one person received financial assistance from the federal government.

Today, that number is up to an all-time record of 49 percent.

Many people don’t believe me when I tell them that more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government right now, and that does not even count Social Security or Medicare.

But it is actually true.

Overall, there are nearly 80 different “means-tested welfare programs” that the federal government is currently running.

But of course the biggest financial burdens are Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.  All three are on course to become completely and totally unsustainable.

For example, the number of Americans on Medicaid soared from 34 million in 2000 to 54 million in 2011, and it is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

Ouch.

Well, what about Medicare?

Sadly, Medicare is even more frightening.

As I wrote recently, it is being projected that the number of Americans on Medicare will grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.

How in the world can we afford that?

At this point, Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars over the next 75 years.  That comes to approximately $328,404 for each and every household in the United States.

Are you ready to contribute your share?

Social Security is in really bad shape as well.

At the moment, approximately 56 million Americans are collecting Social Security benefits.

By 2035, that number is projected to soar to a whopping 91 million.

Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.

Where are we going to get that money?

Total Debt

Of course the national debt is not out only debt problem.  All over the country there are state and local governments that are on the verge of insolvency.  Corporations and financial institutions are leveraged like crazy.  And of course consumers have absolutely gorged on debt over the past several decades.

As a result, we are drowning in debt from sea to shining sea.

The good news is that our GDP is more than 12 times larger than it was 40 years ago.

The bad news is that the total amount of debt in our country is more than 30 times larger than it was 40 years ago….

Obviously this is something that cannot go on forever.

We simply cannot keep accumulating debt much faster than our economy is growing.

Nobody knows exactly when the “adjustment” is coming, but it most definitely will arrive at some point.

Money Printing

The Federal Reserve has attempted to monetize many of our economic problems by printing gigantic mountains of money in recent years.

The Federal Reserve is at the very heart of our economic problems, but most Americans don’t realize this.  It was the Federal Reserve that created the conditions for the housing bubble, and it was the Federal Reserve that badly mismanaged the response when that bubble burst.  The Federal Reserve decides how much money will be printed and what our interest rates will be.  The Federal Reserve lends out trillions of dollars to the banks that they like, and other banks they let die.  The Federal Reserve picks winners and losers in our economy, and most of the time that means good things for the big Wall Street banks and bad things for the rest of us.

In a desperate attempt to keep our unsustainable financial system from collapsing, the Federal Reserve has decided to start printing unprecedented amounts of money.  Just look at what this has done to the monetary base….

And QE3 really hasn’t even started to kick in yet.

So how bad will that chart look after QE3 has been adding another 40 billion dollars a month to the financial system for a while?

You know, the Weimar Republic was absolutely convinced that they were doing the right thing by printing lots of money too.

But in the end that didn’t work out very well for them at all….

So should we really be celebrating the fact that the Federal Reserve is going down the same path that the Weimar Republic did?

Demonocracy has released a great new graphic that does a wonderful job of illustrating just how huge the amounts of money involved in QE3 are going to be.  If you have not seen it yet, you can view the graphic right here.

The rest of the world is watching the games that we are playing with our currency.  Right now we think that we are getting away with it, but what we are doing is not sustainable.  At some point the rest of the world will totally lose confidence in the U.S. dollar, and when that happens the U.S. dollar could easily lose its status as the primary reserve currency of the world.

If that were to happen the coming shift in our standard of living would happen much more rapidly.

Please share this article with as many people as you can.  We need to wake people up and get them to understand how incredibly vulnerable our financial system really is.  We are on a path that is unsustainable any way that you want to look at it, and if something dramatic is not done our economy is going to experience an unprecedented collapse.

So what happens if nothing is done and everything crashes all around us?

Well, I hope that you are prepared because it isn’t going to be pretty.

11 Signs That The U.S. Government Has Become An Overgrown Monstrosity That Almost Every American Is Dependent Upon For Economic Survival

Today, the number of Americans who are able to financially survive without any reliance on the U.S. government whatsoever is declining at a staggering rate.  Whether it is through direct handouts, entitlement programs, student loans, government bailouts, government contracts or direct employment, the truth is that now a solid majority of the American people are at least partially dependent on the federal government for their economic survival.  The sad thing is that the majority of the American people say that there is too much government in their lives when opinion polls are taken, but if you try to take the government check that they are getting away from them those same people will scream bloody murder.  But the truth is that it is getting to be really, really hard to be completely independent of the U.S. government economically.  That is because the U.S. government has their hands in almost everything.  The ideal of a “limited federal government” has long since faded away.  Very few people seem to believe in it anymore.  Instead, Americans today look to the federal government as the answer to all of our problems, as the provider of all of our needs, and as the regulator of every single detail of our lives. 

The U.S. government has become the “Big Mother” that we all scramble to for a handout when we get into trouble.

When you sit down and really analyze it, you quickly realize that there is no way that the U.S. government can be extricated from the U.S. economy now.  Instead of the free enterprise system that we once had in this country, today we have a situation where the U.S. government has become the very core of the economy.  It is the hub around which everything else in the economy revolves.

You don’t believe this?

The following are 11 signs that the U.S. government has become an overgrown monstrosity that almost every American is dependent upon for economic survival…. 

#1) The Explosion Of Government Handouts

39.68 million Americans are now on food stamps.  Millions of others are completely dependent on the extended unemployment benefits that they are receiving.  Millions of other Americans are able to survive financially because of the dozens of other welfare programs that the U.S. government subsidizes.  More Americans are receiving some form of welfare than ever before in history, and each month the numbers continue to go up.  Could there come a day when we all receive government handouts every month?

#2) The Entitlements Programs That Threaten To Destroy U.S. Government Finances

Entitlements are the single biggest U.S. government expense.  These programs include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social Ponzi schemes.  Tens of millions of Americans receive government assistance through these programs.  In fact, nearly 51 million Americans received $672 billion in Social Security benefits in 2009.  We all have friends or family members who receive these kinds of payments.  But cutting so many people a check year after year is slowly but surely destroying U.S. government finances.  According to an official U.S. government report, rapidly growing interest costs on the national debt together with spending on major entitlement programs will absorb approximately 92 cents of every dollar of federal revenue by the year 2019.  That is before a penny is spent on anything else.  This is clearly not a sustainable financial situation by any definition, but who wants to tell tens of millions of Americans that their checks are going to be reduced?

#3) The U.S. Government Is Now Even Paying Mortgages

Yes, you read that right.  As part of the “stimulus” package, the U.S. government is going to send money to some of the states that were hit the hardest by the real estate crisis.  So what is that money going to be used for?  Well, Florida, Michigan, California and Arizona have all announced that they plan to use $1.4 billion the Obama administration is sending their way to help the unemployed and the “underwater” pay their mortgages.

#4) Without The Student Loan Program A Huge Percentage Of College Students Would Not Get An Education

The federal student loan program (which was recently entirely nationalized) helps millions of college students pay for their education.  Without this assistance by the government, a lot less students would be going to college.  In fact, many of you that are reading this article directly benefited from the federal student loan program.

#5) The Bailout Of AIG

One of the biggest insurance companies in the world, AIG, would not be in existence today if not for direct federal government intervention.  It kind of makes you wonder what George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would think about a federal government that hands big bags of cash to a giant insurance company so that it can survive.  Whether it was so they could pay off their debts to Goldman Sachs or whether it was so that they could keep paying out record-setting bonuses, the truth is that AIG would not have made it without the federal government stepping in.

#6) The “Too Big To Fail” Banks

But it wasn’t just AIG that got bailed out.  A number of big banks may have gone under if not for the U.S. government.  The U.S. government decided that they were “too big to fail”.  Well, what about all the small banks that are going under?  The truth is that they are “too small to bother with”.  We now live in a nation where the U.S. government is the one who decides which banks live and which banks die like dogs.  Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy?

#7) The Bailout Of General Motors

But not only does the federal government bail out financial institutions – it is also now in the car business.  Yes, grand old General Motors may have ended up on the scrap heap of history if not for the U.S. government stepping in.  So if you work for General Motors or if you work for any company that does business with General Motors, you can thank Uncle Sam for the fact that you still have a job.

#8) The Bailouts Of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

If the U.S. government had not bailed out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, we may not have much of a mortgage industry at this point at all.  According to Inside Mortgage Finance, government-related entities backed 96.5% of all home loans during the first quarter of 2010, which was up from 90% in 2009.  So if you borrowed money to buy a home over the past couple of years, there is a very strong likelihood that the U.S. government was involved.

#9) The U.S. Government – The Nation’s Biggest Employer

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 2 million civilians work for the federal government, excluding the Postal Service.  When you add in all U.S. military personnel, that number goes much higher. 

The truth is that as the government continues to expand (become more bloated), more Americans than ever are hopping aboard the gravy train.  Today, the average federal worker now earns about twice as much as the average worker in the private sector.  So if you want to do little work, produce little of real value and enjoy super cushy benefits, maybe you should apply for a job with the federal government too.

#10) Millions Of Americans Are Employed By Firms That Rely On Government Contracts

When considering the impact of the U.S. government on the economy, you can’t forget the hundreds of companies that would go out of business if their U.S. government contracts were taken away.  There are literally millions of people who work for companies that do business with the government.  If the government disappeared it would cause economic chaos for those firms.  The truth is that a whole lot of people make a really good living plugging into the sweetest revenue source of them all – the U.S. government.

#11) The U.S. Government Takeover Of The Health Care System

The U.S. government takeover of the health care system is going to fundamentally change the economics of the health care industry.  The U.S. government will now play a major role in deciding which hospitals get built and which do not.  Approximately 17% of U.S. GDP is spent on health care, and now the U.S. government has unprecedented control over where that money goes.  Over a dozen new taxes have been established by the new health care reform law, and the U.S. government is going to pour an unprecedented amount of money into the system.  So will this result in all of us getting better health care?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

The truth is that the Founding Fathers never envisioned a federal government that completely dominated that national economy.  But that is what we have got.  As of now, only a very small percentage of Americans are still able to say that they are completely financially independent of the U.S. government. 

You see, in economic terms the U.S. government is not just the elephant in the room.  It is the elephant that sat on the room and nearly suffocated everything else out of existence.

As Americans, we live in an economy that is so intertwined with the government that it is impossible to separate the two anymore.

But the really bad news is that the U.S. government is in massive financial trouble.  According to one new report, the U.S. national debt will reach 100 percent of GDP by the year 2015.  Many economists regard that as an incredibly dangerous threshold to cross.

If U.S. government finances collapse, it will mean the collapse of the entire U.S. economy as well.  There is simply no separating the two.  And considering the fact that the U.S. government has piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world, things don’t look promising.

America is headed for an unprecedented economic collapse, and the U.S. government is leading the way.  If you can get financially independent, now is the time to try to do that, but the reality is that we will all feel massive economic pain when this thing comes crashing down.

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