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89 Tips That Will Help You Prepare For The Coming Economic Depression

89 Tips That Will Help You Prepare For The Coming Economic DepressionWhat do we need to do in order to prepare for the coming economic collapse?  Are there practical steps that we can take right now that will help us and our families survive the economic depression that is approaching?  As the publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog, I get asked these kinds of questions a lot.  Once people become convinced that an economic collapse is coming, they want to know what they should do.  And so in this article I am going to share some key pieces of advice from some of the top experts in the entire country.  If you are not convinced that economic disaster is on the way, this article might not be for you.  Instead, I would encourage you to go to my website where you will find more than 1,200 articles that set out the case for the coming economic collapse in excruciating detail.  For those of you that are interested in getting prepared, I apologize in advance for the outline format of this article.  To examine each of these points in detail would take an entire book.  In fact, I am the co-author of a book that will soon be published that discusses many of these things in great depth.  But you don’t have to wait for a book to get prepared.  Mostly, it comes down to common sense.  In this article, I share 89 common sense tips that will help you get prepared for the coming economic depression.  Hopefully a lot of people will find these to be very helpful.

This first set of tips are 11 things that I strongly encourage my readers to do…

#1 Have An Emergency Fund – This is so important that I wrote an entire article about this recently.

#2 Don’t Put All Of Your Eggs Into One Basket – In addition to having an emergency fund, you will also want to have gold, silver and other hard assets.  It is also a very good idea to keep a limited amount of cash at home in case you can’t access an ATM during a major emergency of some sort.

#3 Reduce Your Expenses And Get Out Of Debt – During a time of crisis you want to be as “lean and mean” as possible.  If you simplify your life and reduce your debt load now, you will be in much better shape when the next economic depression does arrive.

#4 Move Your Money Away From Unsafe Investments – When the financial world falls apart, you don’t want your finances to be exposed.  Markets tend to go down much faster than they go up, and during the next great financial crisis millions of Americans that have their life savings in stocks and bonds are going to get totally wiped out.

#5 Store Food And Supplies – Your dollars will never stretch farther than they do right now.  You probably will not need emergency food and supplies in the short-term, but the truth is that none of us ever knows when a major emergency will strike.  During 2014, my wife and I felt more of an urgency to stock up then ever before, and I hope that people are using this brief period of relative stability to do what they can to get prepared.

#6 Learn To Grow Your Own Food – Anything that you can do to become more independent of the system is a good thing.  This includes growing your own food.  And the truth is that some of the most expensive items in the grocery store these days are fresh fruits and vegetables.

#7 Defending Yourself And Your Family – As our world become increasingly unstable, people are going to become a lot more desperate.  And desperate people do desperate things.  You are going to need to have a plan for that.

#8 Move Away From The Big Cities If Possible – For a lot of people that are dependent on their current jobs, this is simply not possible right now.  But if it is possible for you, this is something that I strongly recommend that you think about.  Being stuck in the middle of a major city is not going to be a good place to be in the years ahead.

#9 Be Ready To Bug Out – There may come a time when you are forced to evacuate from your current location.  This may happen with very short notice.  If this ever does happen to you, the key will be to be prepared for it.

#10 Build A Community – Your neighbors and close friends can be an invaluable resource.  A cord of multiple threads is not easily broken, and if you have people that you can depend upon during a crisis that can make a world of difference.

#11 Have A Back-Up Plan And Be Flexible – Mike Tyson once aptly observed that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. The years ahead are going to require a great deal of flexibility, and you may find that the plans that you have made need to be altered.  So don’t get fixated on just one approach.

When there is a major emergency, some of the most simple items suddenly become some of the most important.

The following are 11 items that I recommend that every household have on hand…

– an axe

– a can opener

– flashlights

– battery-powered radio

– extra batteries

– lighters or matches

– fire extinguisher

– blankets

– sewing kit

– duct tape

– tools

And here are about a dozen more key items that should be on your list from Survival Mom

  • Lightsticks.  You can pick up one of these every time you wander into a Home Depot.  They don’t need batteries and can be hung around the neck with a string making it easier to spot everyone in your party when it gets dark. An alternative is the UVPaqlite, which never needs batteries.
  • Wool socks and sweaters.  People have literally frozen to death wearing their layers of cotton knit tees and hoodies.  For true survival conditions, nothing beats wool.
  • Upholstery needles and thread.  What if a sleeping bag or tent rips and you have no way of mending it?
  • Roll of quarters.  Handy for phone calls, although payphones aren’t as common as they used to be, and laundromats, but if you put it in a sock and wield it like a sling, you have a handy-dandy weapon! If the quarters are pre-1965 and 90% silver, you have a whole new type of currency.
  • Pencils.  Forget the pens.  They can run out of ink and freeze in cold weather.  With a pocket knife, you’ll always have a sharp pencil.
  • Super glue.  Professional hockey players always have this on hand to seal up small cuts, and the glue itself is harmless.  Unless you get it in your eye, like I did.  But that’s a story for a different type of post!
  • Rubber bands.  String just doesn’t cut it when what you really need is a rubber band
  • Tampons in a cardboard tube.  Did you know a tampon can be fit snugly into a bullet wound?  Guys on the battlefield carry these with them.  Just be aware that the blood in the wound will begin to clot.  Leave it to a medical professional to remove the tampon from the wound.  They’re also good for kindling.
  • Paracord belt.  It’s an accessory and survival tool in one!
  • Waterproof wrist watch.  Makes perfect sense.  I had just never thought of it.
  • Animal repellant trash bags.  Use these when you’re camping and animals will stay the heck away from your trash.
  • Safety pins.
  • Dental floss.  Besides helping to keep your teeth clean, it makes sturdy thread for mending.

But don’t just get focused on acquiring things.

Some of the most important elements of preparation involve things that we need to do for ourselves.

Acclaimed survival expert James Wesley Rawles has put together a “personal list” of things that everyone should think about before a crisis strikes.  A lot of these things are topics that “preppers” never seem to write about…

*****

Spare glasses.

Prescription and nonprescription medications.

Birth control.

Keep dentistry up to date.

Any elective surgery that you’ve been postponing

Work off that gut.

Stay in shape.

Back strength and health—particularly important, given the heavy manual tasks required for self-sufficiency.

Educate yourself on survival topics, and practice them. For example, even if you don’t presently live at your retreat, you should plant a vegetable garden every year. It is better to learn through experience and make mistakes now, when the loss of crop is an annoyance rather than a crucial event.

“Comfort” items to help get through high stress times. (Books, games, CDs, chocolates, etc.)

*****

If you have a serious illness or disease, that is going to need to be one of your top priorities when making preparations for the coming crisis.

This next tip comes from an excellent article that Dave Hodges published recently…

If you or your family has a chronic health condition, it is critical that you have 6 months to a year in medicine. Also, you should research natural alternatives to treatment for health conditions in case you are not able to meet this goal due to the inability to obtain prescriptions. Don’t forget to obtain some pain medication and antibiotics in case of unforeseen emergencies.

Probably one of the most popular topics for preppers to write about is food storage.

But those that are new to prepping are often very confused about how to get started.

It doesn’t have to be complicated.  If you start out by focusing on staples that you eat all the time, you should be in great shape.  The following are some recommendations about food storage that Pat Henry of the Prepper Journal has shared…

  • Rice – First off, buy a 50lb. bag of rice. These contain 504 servings and I don’t know too many people who won’t eat rice. It is simple to cook and stores for years if you keep it cool and dry. This bag at Sam’s costs about $19 now.
  • Beans – Next buy a bag of dry beans. This will check off the Beans part of your Beans, Bullets and Band-Aids list. A good size bag is about $5 and makes 126 servings. Buy two if you think your family would like them.
  • Canned meat – Cans are great for fruits and vegetables and anyone can find something they will eat. For canned meat, I recommend tuna or chicken because it tastes a heck of a lot better than Spam and you can easily mix that into your rice. For the meat you will need approximately 35 cans. Each can has about 3 servings and this will be the most costly, but they last over a year usually and your family probably eats chicken or tuna on a semi-regular basis anyway so restocking this should be simple.
  • Canned Vegetables – you will need about 40 cans of vegetables and again this can be whatever your family will eat. Expect to pay around a dollar each so $40 for veggies to last your family a month.
  • Canned Fruit – again, simple fruits that your family will eat. These can even be fruit cocktail if that is the safest thing. At Costco they have the #10 cans of fruit like pears or apple slices and each of these has 25 servings. 5 of these will cost about $25 and give your family their daily dose of fruit.
  • Oatmeal – Good old-fashioned oatmeal is simple to cook and store. A normal container has 30 servings each so purchase about 4 of these and your family won’t starve for breakfast. At $2 each that is about $8 for breakfast for a month for a family of four. Could you exchange Pop-tarts? Maybe, but I find oatmeal more filling and less likely to be snacked on.
  • Honey- Honey is a miracle food really as it will never go bad if you keep it dry and cool. Honey will last you forever and Sam’s has large containers that hold 108 servings. You can use this in place of sugar to satisfy the sweet tooth. Honey even has medicinal properties and you can use this to add some flavor to your oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Salt – Same as honey, salt will never go bad if you keep it dry and helps the flavor of anything. You can buy a big box of salt for around $1 and that will last your whole family a month easily.
  • Vitamins – I recommend getting some multivitamins to augment your nutrition in the case of a disaster or emergency. Granted, rice and beans aren’t the best and you won’t be getting as many nutrients from canned fruit and vegetables so the vitamins help to fill in the gaps and keep you healthy. One big bottle costs about $8. You will need to get a kids version too if you have children small enough that they can’t or won’t swallow a big multivitamin.

And as I mentioned above, another key to getting prepared is self-defense.  If you make all the preparations in the world, but somebody comes along and steals them from you, they won’t end up doing you any good.

The following are some basic tips about home security from prepping expert Todd Sepulveda

*****

Front Door – Your front door is a layer. But it shouldn’t be your only layer. Besides reinforcing the strike plate with 2 inch screws, you should have a solid deadbolt. Another layer could be a storm door with a lock or even burglar bars. A good latch is valuable too! If you want to add even more layers, utilizing a security door bar is a good idea. But you don’t only want to make sure that your front door is securely layered. Take some time to layer all the doors in your home.

Windows – Every window has a lock. But you can add a layer by including sliding window locks for about $5. Other options would include tint or blinds, which would make it harder for someone to look inside your house.

Burglar Alarm – A burglar alarm is a serious layer. Alarms can be monitored by an alarm company or they can be self-monitored. Self-monitored systems have greatly advanced and will even allow you to view your home on your smartphone.

Dogs – A dog or dogs can be a great layer, especially if they bark. My dogs alert me the minute someone is in the front of the yard. They run and bark at the door and don’t stop until I open it. Outside dogs are a layer to your perimeter. A big dog on the other side of the fence will make any criminal think twice.

Outside Lights – Lights that are mounted on the outside of your home, especially ones that are triggered by motion sensors are a must! Roaches run when you turn on the lights! Someone who is watching your house will not want to approach it if they know the lights are going to draw attention to them.

Outside Landscaping – Bushes can be a layer around windows. It is important that you don’t create an environment that will create a hiding place for someone to lay in waiting. Make sure that the bushes you choose to plant are thorny and cause a lot of discomfort if someone wants to go through them.

Personal Defense – A firearm is a layer that you would want to have if needed. If you want to use something that is not so deadly, you can always pick up a can of ColdSteel Inferno to spray in someone’s face. Having a few of these cans hidden in different parts of the house is a good idea.

Safe Room – A safe room would be a last ditch layer. Some people are putting them into their homes. If this is a scenario you want to take, you should research the necessary components for a “safe” safe room.

Neighborhood Watch – Although a Neighborhood Watch isn’t just focused on your home, it is a layer that could cause the bad guys to go looking in a different neighborhood altogether. Neighborhoods that have a Neighborhood Watch usually post signs in the entrances of their neighborhood.

Neighbors – Even if you don’t have a Neighborhood Watch, you should get to know your neighbors, especially those pesky ones that stay in everyone’s business…because they are going to keep a lookout! You gotta take some bad with the good!

Street Lights – Sticking with your neighborhood, it would be a good idea to immediately report any street lights that are out to the city or county that manages them. Again, light causes the roaches to run for cover!

Signs – Don’t underestimate the power of a cheap sign. A sign on a fence that reads “Beware of Dog” or a Security company sign on the front lawn somewhere will cause the bad guys to think twice before attempting to break into your house.

*****

If you do need to leave your home during a crisis, you should have a “bug out bag” ready for each member of your family.

The following are 7 key items that Survival Cache recommends including in each bug out bag…

1. Water

2. Food

3. Clothing

4. Shelter

5. First Aid Kit

6. Basic Gear

7. Weapons

Finally, it is important to remember that nobody is perfect and that everyone makes mistakes.

The following are 14 common mistakes that Backdoor Survival says a lot of preppers make…

1. Failure to inventory stored food supplies

2. Failure to perform a risk analysis and prepping for the most likely disruptive events first

3. Preparing mostly to bug out rather than bugging in

4. Failure to evacuate at just the right time

5. Having the gear but not knowing how to use it

6. Underestimating other humans as a threat

7. Spending your entire budget on gear instead of on food, water, and medical supplies

8. Lacking the knowledge to properly store your food supplies

9. Buying gear and supplies while ignoring the need to develop skills

10. Relying only on yourself and ignoring like-minded members of your community

11. Just because someone else does something does not mean that you should do it to

12. Falling victim to prepper procrastination

13. Obsessing about being behind the curve-ball

14. Forgetting that there is a life beyond prepping

Are there any additions that you would make to this list of tips?

Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…

 

All Over America, Government Officials Are Cracking Down On Preppers

Police State Big Brother Prison Grid - Public DomainWhy would the government want to punish people that are just trying to work hard, become more self-sufficient and take care of their families?  There are approximately 3 million preppers in the United States today, and often they appear to be singled out for punishment by bureaucratic control freaks that are horrified at the thought that there are families out there that actually want to try to become less dependent on the system.  So if you use alternative methods to heat your home, or if you are not connected to the utility grid, or if you collect rainwater on your property, or if you believe that parents should have the ultimate say when it comes to health decisions for their children, you could become a target for overzealous government enforcers.  Once upon a time, America was the land of the free and the home of the brave, but now we are being transformed into a socialist police state where control freak bureaucrats use millions of laws, rules and regulations to crack down on anyone that dares to think for themselves.

For example, people have been burning wood to heat their homes since this country began.  And this is still very common in rural areas.  But the Obama administration does not like this at all.  The Obama bureaucrats at the EPA fear that our little wood stoves may be contributing to “global warming”, so they have outlawed the production and sale of 80 percent of the wood stoves that are currently in use.  The following comes from a recent Forbes article

It seems that even wood isn’t green or renewable enough anymore. The EPA has recently banned the production and sale of 80 percent of America’s current wood-burning stoves, the oldest heating method known to mankind and mainstay of rural homes and many of our nation’s poorest residents. The agency’s stringent one-size-fits-all rules apply equally to heavily air-polluted cities and far cleaner plus typically colder off-grid wilderness areas such as large regions of Alaska and the American West.

While EPA’s most recent regulations aren’t altogether new, their impacts will nonetheless be severe. Whereas restrictions had previously banned wood-burning stoves that didn’t limit fine airborne particulate emissions to 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the change will impose a maximum 12 microgram limit. To put this amount in context, EPA estimates that secondhand tobacco smoke in a closed car can expose a person to 3,000-4,000 micrograms of particulates per cubic meter.

Most wood stoves that warm cabin and home residents from coast-to-coast can’t meet that standard. Older stoves that don’t cannot be traded in for updated types, but instead must be rendered inoperable, destroyed, or recycled as scrap metal.

Does that make you angry?

It should.

There are other preppers that try to use very “clean” methods to power their homes, but that is still not good enough for some government control freaks.

For example, one prepper down in south Florida that had gone “off the grid” was recently ordered by a court to connect back to the grid or face eviction from his home.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Guiles Hendrik

Think you are still free to make choices in your life? Do you think the government will allow you to live independent of their utility monopolies? If you think so, try opting for renewable non-grid tied power and utilize environmentally friendly composting toilets and your own self-sufficient water supply. Today, those life choices could land you in jail if you live in South Florida. Take the case of Robin Speronis.

Robin Speronis has lived off the grid, independent of the city’s water and electric system. A Florida court ruled this off-the-grid living illegal last week and has given Robin until March to connect her home to a municipal water line or face possible eviction. Further, officials in the city of Cape Coral have justified this by deeming Robin’s home “unsanitary,” citing the International Property Maintenance Code. First of all, since when did we begin to locally recognize “international codes?” Where in the US Constitution does it provide for international jurisdiction over local codes? Ironically, this “international” code mandates that homes be connected to an electricity grid and a running water source, even though most of the world lives without reliable electricity and municipal water and sewer. Further, the code is outdated and obsolete because it was written without consideration to both old and new technologies that relegate the need for grid tied power and municipal water as unnecessary and expensive; especially, in locations where it simply isn’t feasible to have grid tied utilities. Nonetheless, Speronis’ home does in fact have power and water through far cheaper and more environmentally friendly means — solar panels and rainwater, but that reality is ignored by the local government.

Incredibly, most Americans still seem to believe that we live in a “free country”.  But we don’t.  Our lives are very tightly constrained by literally millions of laws, rules and regulations, and more are being added every single day.

Even some of our most basic fundamental rights have been seriously eroded.  One of these is the right to make basic health decisions for our own children.  In New York state, children that have not received all of the designated vaccines can now be banned from attending public school, and this requirement was recently upheld by a federal appeals court

New York state’s requirement that children be vaccinated before attending public school does not violate their constitutional rights, a federal appeals court in Manhattan said on Wednesday.

In affirming the requirement’s constitutionality, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also upheld a previous ruling by a federal judge that students exempted from the requirement for religious reasons can be barred from school when another child has a disease preventable by a vaccine.

The decision was the latest to go against three parents from New York City who say their religious rights were violated when their children were kept out of school as a result of the immunization policies. The parents’ lawyer, Patricia Finn, said her clients planned to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

So what are we free to do without government interference these days?

Not much.

In fact, in some states we can’t even sit on our own land and collect the rain as it falls from the sky for our own personal use.

If you do this in the state of Oregon, for example, you could go to prison

Gary Harrington, the Oregon man convicted of collecting rainwater and snow runoff on his rural property surrendered Wednesday morning to begin serving his 30-day, jail sentence in Medford, Ore.

“I’m sacrificing my liberty so we can stand up as a country and stand for our liberty,” Harrington told a small crowd of people gathered outside of the Jackson County (Ore.) Jail.

Several people held signs that showed support for Harrington as he was taken inside the jail.

And of course these are just a few examples.  Almost every single day there are more stories in the news about government bureaucrats cracking down on preppers.  They almost seem to relish the opportunity to go after the “non-conformists”.

But the good news is that the number of Americans that are seeking to become less dependent on the system just continues to grow.

So what about you?

Are you a prepper?

My friend Daisy Luther recently wrote a piece entitled “45 MORE Signs That You Might Be One of Those Crazy Preppers“.  The following are some of the most interesting “signs” from her list…

*You spend your days off digging an underground bunker in your backyard.

*Your family doesn’t dare take something from the food stockpile without marking it off the list.

*Your kids know how to don a gas mask in 30 seconds.

*Everyone in your survival group carries the same firearm so that ammo is standardized.

*Your family is no longer surprised when you announce, “Hey, we’re going to learn how to make (insert anything here)!”

*You have long since accepted the idea that if you’re not on someone’s list, you’re probably not doing it right.

*You don’t just rotate food, you rotate ammo.

*Moving to a new house is no longer “moving”, but “strategic relocation”.

*Your kids think it’s a fun game to see who can find the most potential weapons in a room.

*Your EDC includes a knife, firearm w/extra mag, flashlight, mylar blanket, Chapstick, and an ounce of silver — and that’s just for when you’re walking the dog.

*One criterion for your new winter coat is that it fits over your body armor.

You can read her entire article right here.

America was built by people that loved their families, worked hard and were self-sufficient.

Now our government is specifically targeting those kinds of people.

What in the world is happening to us?

The Number Of Working Age Americans Without A Job Has Risen By 27 MILLION Since 2000

Arrow Going UpDid you know that there are nearly 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now?  And 20 percent of all families in the United States do not have a single member that is employed.  So how in the world can the government claim that the unemployment rate has “dropped” to “6.3 percent”?  Well, it all comes down to how you define who is “unemployed”.  For example, last month the government moved another 988,000 Americans into the “not in the labor force” category.  According to the government, at this moment there are 9.75 million Americans that are “unemployed” and there are 92.02 million Americans that are “not in the labor force” for a grand total of 101.77 million working age Americans that do not have a job.  Back in April 2000, only 5.48 million Americans were unemployed and only 69.27 million Americans were “not in the labor force” for a grand total of 74.75 million Americans without a job.  That means that the number of working age Americans without a job has risen by 27 million since the year 2000.  Any way that you want to slice that, it is bad news.

Well, what about as a percentage of the population?

Has the percentage of working age Americans that have a job been increasing or decreasing?

As you can see from the chart posted below, the percentage of working age Americans with a job has been in a long-term downward trend.  As the year 2000 began, we were sitting at 64.6 percent.  By the time the great financial crisis of 2008 struck, we were hovering around 63 percent.  During the last recession, we fell dramatically to under 59 percent and we have stayed there ever since…

Employment Population Ratio April 2014

And the numbers behind this chart also show that employment in America did not increase last month.

In March, 58.9 percent of all working age Americans had a job.

In April, 58.9 percent of all working age Americans had a job.

Things are not getting worse (at least for the moment), but things are also definitely not getting better.

The month that Barack Obama entered the White House, we were in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and only 60.6 percent of all working age Americans had a job.

Since only 58.9 percent of all working age Americans have a job now, that means that the employment situation in America is still significantly worse than it was the day Barack Obama took office.

So don’t let anyone fool you with talk of an “employment recovery”.  It simply is not happening.  The official unemployment rate bears so little relation to economic reality at this point that it has essentially become meaningless.

Look, how in the world can we have an “unemployment rate” of just “6.3 percent” when 20 percent of all American families do n0t have a single member that is working?

Here is how that 20 percent figure was arrived at

A family, as defined by the BLS, is a group of two or more people who live together and who are related by birth, adoption or marriage. In 2013, there were 80,445,000 families in the United States and in 16,127,000—or 20 percent–no one had a job.

So if one out of every five families is completely unemployed, then why is the official government unemployment rate not up at Great Depression era levels?

Could it be that the government is manipulating the numbers to make them look much better than they actually are?

Why don’t they just go ahead and get it over with?  They can just define every American that is not working as “not in the labor force” and then we can have “0.0 percent unemployment”.  Then we can all have a giant party and celebrate how wonderful the U.S. economy is.

And don’t be fooled by the “288,000 jobs” that were added to the U.S. economy last month.  For workers under the age of 55, the number of jobs actually dropped by a whopping 259,000.

If we were using honest numbers, the official unemployment rate would look a lot scarier.  John Williams of shadowstats.com has calculated that the unemployment rate should be about 23 percent.  I don’t think that is too far off.

Meanwhile, the quality of the jobs in our economy continues to go down.  The House Ways and Means Committee says that seven out of every eight jobs that have been “added” to the economy under Barack Obama have been part-time jobs.  But you can’t raise a family or plan a career around a part-time job.  To be honest, it is very hard for a single person to even survive on a part-time wage in this economic environment.

As the quality of our jobs goes down, so do our incomes.  The median household income has declined for five years in a row, and the middle class is falling apart.

Without middle class incomes, you can’t have a middle class.  Considering what we have been watching happen, it should be no surprise that the homeownership rate in the United States has dropped to the lowest level in 19 years or that the number of Americans receiving money from the government each month exceeds the number of full-time workers in the private sector by more than 60 million.

For many more statistics like this, please see my previous article entitled “17 Facts To Show To Anyone That Believes That The U.S. Economy Is Just Fine“.

At a gut level, most Americans understand that things are much worse than they used to be.

The Pew Research Center recently asked people what “class” they consider themselves to be.  The results were shocking.

Back in 2008, only 25 percent of all Americans considered themselves to be “lower middle class” or “poor”.

Earlier this year, an astounding 40 percent of all Americans chose one of those designations.

We are in the midst of a long-term economic decline, and no amount of propaganda is going to change that.

But based on the “happy numbers” being trumpeted by the mainstream media, the Federal Reserve is slowly bringing their quantitative easing program to an end.

When quantitative easing is finally totally cut off, we shall see how the financial markets and the U.S. economy perform without artificial life support.

Personally, I don’t think that it is going to be pretty.

Consumer Spending Drought: 16 Signs That The Middle Class Is Running Out Of Money

Drought - Photo by Bert KaufmannIs “discretionary income” rapidly becoming a thing of the past for most American families?  Right now, there are a lot of signs that we are on the verge of a nightmarish consumer spending drought.  Incomes are down, taxes are up, many large retail chains are deeply struggling because of the lack of customers, and at this point nearly a quarter of all Americans have more credit card debt than money in the bank.  Considering the fact that consumer spending is such a large percentage of the U.S. economy, that is very bad news.  How will we ever have a sustained economic recovery if consumers don’t have much money to spend?  Well, the truth is that we aren’t ever going to have a sustained economic recovery.  In fact, this debt-fueled bubble of false hope that we are experiencing right now is as good as things are going to get.  Things are going to go downhill from here, and if you think that consumer spending is bad now, just wait until you see what happens over the next several years.

Even though the Dow is surging toward a record high right now, everyone knows that things are not good for the middle class.  A recent quote from CPA Howard Dvorkin kind of summarizes our current state of affairs very nicely…

“The fact of the matter is that America is broke — whether it’s mortgages, student loans or credit cards, we are broke. The old rule of thumb is that people should have six months’ of savings,” Dvorkin says.”If you talk to people, most don’t have two pennies.”

These days most Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck, and thanks to rising prices and rising taxes, those paychecks are getting squeezed tighter and tighter.  Many families have had to cut back on unnecessary expenses, and some families no longer have any discretionary income at all.

The following are 16 signs that the middle class is rapidly running out of money…

#1 According to one brand new survey, 24 percent of all Americans have more credit card debt than money in the bank.

#2 J.C. Penney was once an unstoppable retail powerhouse, but now J.C. Penney has just posted its lowest annual retail sales in more than 20 years

J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) slid the most in more than three decades after the department-store chain lost $4.3 billion in sales in the first year of Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson’s turnaround plan.

The shares fell 18 percent to $17.40 at 11:28 a.m. in New York after earlier declining 22 percent, the biggest intraday drop since at least 1980, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. J.C. Penney yesterday said its net loss in the quarter ended Feb. 2 widened to $552 million from $87 million a year earlier. The Plano, Texas-based retailer’s annual revenue slid 25 percent to $13 billion, the lowest since at least 1987.

How much worse can things get?  At this point the decline has become so steep for J.C. Penney that Jim Cramer of CNBC is declaring that they are in “a true tailspin“.

#3 In the United States today, a new car has become out of reach for most middle class Americans according to the 2013 Car Affordability Study

Looking to buy a new car, truck or crossover? You may find it more difficult to stretch the household budget than you expected, according to a new study that finds median-income families in only one major U.S. city actually can afford the typical new vehicle.

The typical new vehicle is now more expensive than ever, averaging $30,500 in 2012, according to TrueCar.com data, and heading up again as makers curb the incentives that helped make their products more affordable during the recession when they were desperate for sales. According to the 2013 Car Affordability Study by Interest.com, only in Washington could the typical household swing the payments, the median income there running $86,680 a year.

#4 The founder of Subway Restaurants, Fred Deluca, says that the recent tax increases are having a noticeable impact on his business…

“The payroll tax is affecting sales. It’s causing sales declines,” he said, estimating a decline of about 2 percentage points off sales at his restaurants. “There are a lot of pressures on consumers,” Deluca said, adding “I think this is on the permanent side, but I think business will adjust to it.”

#5 Many other large restaurant chains are also struggling in this tough economic environment…

Darden Restaurants, which owns the casual dining chains Oliver Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster, said blended same-store sales at its three eateries would be 4.5 percent lower during its fiscal third quarter.

Clarence Otis, Darden’s chairman and chief executive, said that “while results midway through the third quarter were encouraging, there were difficult macro-economic headwinds during the last month of the quarter.”

“Two of the most prominent were increased payroll taxes and rising gasoline prices, which together put meaningful pressure on the discretionary purchasing power of our guests,” he added.

#6 The CFO of Family Dollar recently admitted to CNBC that this is a “challenging time” because of reduced consumer spending…

At Family Dollar where the average customer makes less than $40,000 a year, the combination of a two-percent hike in the payroll tax, rising gas prices and delayed tax refunds has created a “challenging time and an uncertain time for the consumer right now,” said Mary Winston, the company’s chief financial officer.

“In our case, anything that takes money out of our customer’s wallet gives them less money to spend in our stores,” she told CNBC. “So I think all of those things create nervousness for the consumer, and I think there are sometimes political dynamics going on that they might not even fully understand the details, but they know it’s not good.”

#7 Even Wal-Mart is really struggling right now.  According to a recent Bloomberg article, Wal-Mart is struggling “to restock store shelves as U.S. sales slump“…

Evelin Cruz, a department manager at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pico Rivera, California, said Simon’s comments from the officers’ meeting were “dead on.”

“There are gaps where merchandise is missing,” Cruz said in a telephone interview. “We are not talking about a couple of empty shelves. This is throughout the store in every store. Some places look like they’re going out of business.”

This all comes on the heels of an internal Wal-Mart memo that was leaked to the press earlier this month that described February sales as a “total disaster”.

#8 Electronics retailer Best Buy continues to struggle mightily.  Best Buy just announced that it will be eliminating 400 jobs at its headquarters in Richfield, Minnesota.

#9 It is being projected that many of the largest retail chains in America, including Best Buy, will close down hundreds of stores during 2013.  The following is a list of projected store closings for 2013 that I included in a previous article

Best Buy

Forecast store closings: 200 to 250

Sears Holding Corp.

Forecast store closings: Kmart 175 to 225, Sears 100 to 125

J.C. Penney

Forecast store closings: 300 to 350

Office Depot

Forecast store closings: 125 to 150

Barnes & Noble

Forecast store closings: 190 to 240, per company comments

Gamestop

Forecast store closings: 500 to 600

OfficeMax

Forecast store closings: 150 to 175

RadioShack

Forecast store closings: 450 to 550

#10 Another sign that consumer spending is slowing down is the fact that less stuff is being moved around in our economy.   As I have mentioned previously, freight shipment volumes have hit their lowest level in two years, and freight expenditures have gone negative for the first time since the last recession.

#11 Many young adults have no discretionary income to spend because they are absolutely drowning in student loan debt.  According to the New York Federal Reserve, student loan debt nearly tripled between 2004 and 2012.

#12 The student loan delinquency rate in the United States is now at an all-time high.  It is only a matter of time before the student loan debt bubble bursts.

#13 Due to a lack of jobs and high levels of debt, poverty among young adults in America is absolutely exploding.  Today, U.S. families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

#14 According to one recent survey, 62 percent of all middle class Americans say that they have had to reduce household spending over the past year.

#15 Median household income in the United States has fallen for four consecutive years.  Overall, it has declined by more than $4000 during that time span.

#16 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is currently taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Retailers are desperate for sales, but you can’t squeeze blood out of a rock.

For much more on how the middle class is absolutely drowning in debt, please see this article: “Money Is A Form Of Social Control And Most Americans Are Debt Slaves“.

But if you listen to the mainstream media, they would have you believe that happy days are here again.

Right now, everyone seems to be quite giddy about the fact that the Dow is marching toward an all-time high.  And I actually do believe that the Dow will blow right past it.  In fact, it is even possible that we could see the Dow hit 15,000 before everything starts falling apart.

But at some point, the financial markets will catch up with economic reality.  It is just a matter of time.

In the meanwhile, those that are wise are taking advantage of these times of plenty to prepare for the great economic drought that is coming.

Don’t be caught living paycheck to paycheck and totally unprepared when the next wave of the economic collapse strikes.  Anyone that believes that this debt-fueled bubble of false hope can last indefinitely is just being delusional.

During The Years Of Plenty, Prepare For The Years Of Drought - Photo Taken By Tomas Castelazo

Abolish The Income Tax: You Won’t Believe Who Is Getting Away With Paying Zero Taxes While The Middle Class Gets Hammered

Abolish The Income Tax - You Won't Believe Who Is Getting Away With Paying Zero Taxes While The Middle Class Gets Hammered - Photo by TravisThe federal income tax is a bad joke and it needs to be abolished.  All over the nation, hard working American families are being absolutely crushed by oppressive levels of taxation, and our politicians are constantly coming up with new ways to extract money from all of us every single year.  Meanwhile, many ultra-wealthy Americans and many of the most profitable corporations in the country pay little to nothing in taxes.  In fact, as you will see below, there are dozens of very prominent corporations that make billions of dollars in profits and yet don’t pay a dime in taxes.  Tax avoidance has become a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States.  Those that have the resources to “play the game” use shell companies, offshore tax havens and the thousands of loopholes in our tax code to minimize their tax burdens as much as possible.  Meanwhile, the rest of us get absolutely hammered.  This is fundamentally unfair.  The federal income tax system is irreversibly broken at this point, and it is time to abolish it.  If you think that the federal income tax system can be “fixed”, then you probably have never studied it.  Our tax code is nearly 4 million words long and it is absolutely riddled with thousands of loopholes that favor big corporations and the ultra-wealthy.  We should come up with a better, fairer way to fund the government.  The United States once prospered greatly without a federal income tax, and it could do so again.

Many people simply do not believe that it is possible for corporations inside the United States to make billions of dollars in profits each year and not pay a dime in income taxes.

Well, according to a report put out by Public Campaign, that is exactly what is happening.  Posted below are numbers that come directly from their report.  30 large corporations are listed, and 29 of them had a tax burden for 2008 through 2010 that was less than zero even though they all made enormous profits.  And all 30 of them spent more on lobbying than they did on taxes.

The numbers that you are about to see are for 2008, 2009 and 2010 combined.  For “taxes paid”, please note that for 29 of the corporations a negative number is given.  That means that the net tax liability for 2008 through 2010 was actually less than zero.

After seeing these numbers, is there anyone out there that is still willing to claim that our tax system is “fair”?…

General Electric
U.S. Profits: $10,460,000,000
Taxes Paid: ‐$4,737,000,000

PG&E Corp.
U.S. Profits: $4,855,000,000
Taxes Paid: ‐$1,027,000,000

Verizon Communications
U.S. Profits: $32,518,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$951,000,000

Wells Fargo
U.S. Profits: $49,370,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$681,000,000

American Electric Power
U.S. Profits: $5,899,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$545,000,000

Pepco Holdings
U.S. Profits: $882,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$508,000,000

Computer Sciences
U.S. Profits: $1,666,000,000
Taxes Paid: ‐$305,000,000

CenterPoint Energy
U.S. Profits: $1,931,000,000
Taxes Paid: ‐$284,000,000

NiSource
U.S. Profits: $1,385,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$227,000,000

Duke Energy
U.S. Profits: $5,475,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$216,000,000

Boeing
U.S. Profits: $9,735,000,000
Taxes Paid: ‐$178,000,000

NextEra Energy
U.S. Profits: $6,403,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$139,000,000

Consolidated Edison
U.S. Profits: $4,263,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$127,000,000

Paccar
U.S. Profits: $365,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$112,000,000

Integrys Energy Group
U.S. Profits: $818,000,000
Taxes Paid: ‐$92,000,000

Wisconsin Energy
U.S. Profits: $1,725,000,000
Taxes Paid: ‐$85,000,000

DuPont
U.S. Profits: $2,124,000,000
Taxes Paid: ‐$72,000,000

Baxter International
U.S. Profits: $926,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$66,000,000

Tenet Healthcare
U.S. Profits: $415,000,000
Taxes Paid: ‐$48,000,000

Ryder System
U.S. Profits: $627,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$46,000,000

El Paso
U.S. Profits: $4,105,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$41,000,000

Honeywell International
U.S. Profits: $4,903,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$34,000,000

CMS Energy
U.S. Profits: $1,292,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$29,000,000

Con-­way
U.S. Profits: $286,000,000
Taxes Paid: ‐$26,000,000

Navistar International
U.S. Profits: $896,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$18,000,000

DTE Energy
U.S. Profits: $2,551,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$17,000,000

Interpublic Group
U.S. Profits: $571,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$15,000,000

Mattel
U.S. Profits: $1,020,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$9,000,000

Corning
U.S. Profits: $1,977,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$4,000,000

FedEx
U.S. Profits: $4,247,000,000
Taxes Paid: $37,000,000 (a rate of less than 1%)

Total
U.S. Profits: $163,691,000,000
­Taxes Paid: ‐$10,602,000,000

Just look at that combined total again.

Those 30 companies had combined profits of more than 163 billion dollars during those three years, and yet the combined net tax liability of those companies was negative 10.6 billion dollars.

I wish I could make my taxes look like that.

Another company that is making headlines because of their taxes these days is Facebook.

It turns out that Facebook made more than a billion dollars in 2012 but did not pay a single dime in federal or state income taxes.  The following is from a report that was just released by Citizens for Tax Justice

Earlier this month, the Facebook Inc. released its first “10-K” annual financial report since going public last year. Hidden in the report’s footnotes is an amazing admission: despite $1.1 billion in U.S. profits in 2012, Facebook did not pay even a dime in federal and state income taxes.

Instead, Facebook says it will receive net tax refunds totaling $429 million.

According to Businessweek, Facebook has an additional 2 billion dollars in tax credits that it will be able to use in future years…

Facebook says that it anticipates reducing its tax liability in the future by an additional $2.17 billion by using further net operating loss carry-forwards that it has banked.

And of course when it comes to abusing the tax system, the big Wall Street banks are some of the worst offenders.  The following is an excerpt from a report put out by the office of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

—–

Here are just a few examples of how the corporations and Wall Street banks these CEOs work for have significantly harmed our economy and the federal budget:

1. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan

Number of Offshore Tax Havens in 2010? 371.

In 2010, Bank of America operated 371 subsidiaries incorporated in offshore tax havens. 204 of these subsidiaries are incorporated in the Cayman Islands, which has a corporate tax rate of 0%.

Amount of federal income taxes Bank of America would have owed if offshore tax havens were eliminated? $2.5 billion.

Bank of America has stashed $18.5 billion in offshore tax havens to avoid paying U.S. income taxes. Bank of America would owe an estimated $2.5 billion in federal income taxes if its use of offshore tax avoidance was eliminated.

Amount of federal income taxes paid in 2010? Zero. $1.9 billion tax refund.

Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS in 2010, even though it made $4.4 billion in profits.

Taxpayer Bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department? Over $1.3 trillion.

During the financial crisis, Bank of America received a total of more than $1.3 trillion in virtually zero interest loans from the Federal Reserve and a $45 billion bailout from the Treasury Department.

2. JP Morgan Chase CEO James Dimon

Number of Offshore Tax Havens in 2010? 83.

In 2010, JP Morgan Chase operated 83 subsidiaries incorporated in offshore tax havens.

Amount of federal income taxes JP Morgan Chase would have owed if offshore tax havens were eliminated? $4.9 billion

JP Morgan Chase has stashed $21.8 billion in offshore tax haven countries to avoid payng income taxes. If this practice was outlawed, it would have paid $4.9 billion in federal income taxes.

Taxpayer Bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department? $416 billion

During the financial crisis, JP Morgan Chase received a total of more than $391 billion in virtually zero interest loans from the Federal Reserve and a $25 billion bailout from the Treasury Department, while Jamie DImon served as a director of the New York Federal Reserve.

3. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein

Amount of federal income taxes paid in 2008? Zero. $278 million tax refund.

In 2008, Goldman Sachs received a $278 million refund from the IRS, even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion that year.

Number of offshore tax havens in 2010? 39.

In 2010, Goldman Sachs operated 39 subsidiaries in offshore tax haven countries.

Amount of federal income taxes Goldman Sachs would have owed if offshore tax havens were eliminated? $3.32 billion.

Goldman Sachs has stashed $20.63 billion in offshore tax haven countries to avoid paying income taxes. If this practice was outlawed, it would have paid $3.32 billion in federal income taxes.

Taxpayer Bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department? $824 billion.

During the financial crisis, Goldman Sachs received a total of $814 billion in virtually zero interest loans from the Federal Reserve and a $10 billion bailout from the Treasury Department.

—–

Are you starting to get the picture?

The big banks and the big corporations make billions, but they pay nothing or next to nothing.

The rest of us bust our rear ends to try to get ahead, and we get gouged by dozens of different taxes.

Over time, the percentage of the overall tax burden shouldered by corporations has gotten smaller and smaller.

Back in 1950, corporate taxes accounted for about 30 percent of all federal revenue.  In 2012, corporate taxes accounted for less than 7 percent of all federal revenue.

These days, large corporations have become absolute masters at avoiding taxes.  In fact, there are many international tax havens that are doing a booming business in setting up sham headquarters for U.S. corporations.  For example, the city of Zug, Switzerland only has a population of 26,000 people but it is the headquarters for 30,000 companies.

But corporations are not the only ones doing this kind of thing.

The ultra-wealthy have also mastered the art of legally not paying taxes.

As I mentioned in a previous article, it has been reported that the global elite have up to 32 TRILLION dollars stashed in offshore banks around the globe.

With that amount of money, you could pay off the entire U.S. national debt and still have enough money left over to buy every product and service produced in the United States during an entire year.

It is time to admit that our tax system is broken.

Congress has had decades to fix it, and yet the abuses just keep getting worse.

What we are doing is not working.

We need to abolish the income tax.

If you are still not convinced that the federal income tax is an abomination and that we need to abolish it, here are some more shocking facts about our tax system from one of my previous articles about taxes

1 – The U.S. tax code is now 3.8 million words long.  If you took all of William Shakespeare’s works and collected them together, the entire collection would only be about 900,000 words long.

2 – According to the National Taxpayers Union, U.S. taxpayers spend more than 7.6 billion hours complying with federal tax requirements.  Imagine what our society would look like if all that time was spent on more economically profitable activities.

3 – 75 years ago, the instructions for Form 1040 were two pages long.  Today, they are 189 pages long.

4 – There have been 4,428 changes to the tax code over the last decade.  It is incredibly costly to change tax software, tax manuals and tax instruction booklets for all of those changes.

5 – According to the National Taxpayers Union, the IRS currently has 1,999 different publications, forms, and instruction sheets that you can download from the IRS website.

6 – Our tax system has become so complicated that it is almost impossible to file your taxes correctly.  For example, back in 1998 Money Magazine had 46 different tax professionals complete a tax return for a hypothetical household.  All 46 of them came up with a different result.

7 – In 2009, PC World had five of the most popular tax preparation software websites prepare a tax return for a hypothetical household.  All five of them came up with a different result.

8 – The IRS spends $2.45 for every $100 that it collects in taxes.

9 – According to The Tax Foundation, the average American has to work until April 17th just to pay federal, state, and local taxes.  Back in 1900, “Tax Freedom Day” came on January 22nd.

10 – When the U.S. government first implemented a personal income tax back in 1913, the vast majority of the population paid a rate of just 1 percent, and the highest marginal tax rate was just 7 percent.

11 – Residents of New Jersey pay $1.64 in taxes for every $1.00 of federal spending that they get back.

12 – The United States is the only nation on the planet that tries to tax citizens on what they earn in foreign countries.

13 – According to Forbes, the 400 highest earning Americans pay an average federal income tax rate of just 18 percent.

14 – Warren Buffett had an effective tax rate of just 17.4 percent for 2010.

15 – The top 20 percent of all income earners in the United States pay approximately 86 percent of all federal income taxes.

16 – Sadly, as Bill Whittle has shown, you could take every single penny that every American earns above $250,000 and it would only fund about 38 percent of the federal budget.

Please share this article with as many people as you can.  We have now entered a time of the year when tens of millions of Americans will be filling out their tax returns, and the pain of going through that process will make people even more receptive than normal to the truth about how broken our system is.

So what do you think?

Do you think that it is fair for the ultra-wealthy and hugely profitable corporations to get away with paying zero taxes while you get hammered?

Do you believe that it is time to abolish the income tax?

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

No Federal Income Tax

Goldman Sachs Made 400 Million Betting On Food Prices In 2012 While Hundreds Of Millions Starved

Starving Child In Ethiopia - Photo by Cate Turton - Department for International DevelopmentWhy does it seem like wherever there is human suffering, some giant bank is making money off of it?  According to a new report from the World Development Movement, Goldman Sachs made about 400 million dollars betting on food prices last year.  Overall, 2012 was quite a banner year for Goldman Sachs.  As I reported in a previous article, revenues for Goldman increased by about 30 percent in 2012 and the price of Goldman stock has risen by more than 40 percent over the past 12 months.  It is estimated that the average banker at Goldman brought in a pay and bonus package of approximately $396,500 for 2012.  So without a doubt, Goldman Sachs is swimming in money right now.  But what is the price for all of this “success”?  Many claim that the rampant speculation on food prices by the big banks has dramatically increased the global price of food and has caused the suffering of hundreds of millions of poor families around the planet to become much worse.  At this point, global food prices are more than twice as high as they were back in 2003.  Approximately 2 billion people on the planet spend at least half of their incomes on food, and close to a billion people regularly do not have enough food to eat.  Is it moral for Goldman Sachs and other big banks such as Barclays and Morgan Stanley to make hundreds of millions of dollars betting on the price of food if that is going to drive up global food prices and make it harder for poor families all over the world to feed themselves?

This is another reason why the derivatives bubble is so bad for the world economy.  Goldman Sachs and other big banks are treating the global food supply as if it was some kind of a casino game.  This kind of reckless activity was greatly condemned by the World Development Movement report

“Goldman Sachs is the global leader in a trade that is driving food prices up while nearly a billion people are hungry. The bank lobbied for the financial deregulation that made it possible to pour billions into the commodity derivative markets, created the necessary financial instruments, and is now raking in the profits. Speculation is fuelling volatility and food price spikes, hurting people who struggle to afford food across the world.”

So shouldn’t there be a law against this kind of a thing?

Well, in the United States there actually is, but the law has been blocked by the big Wall Street banks and their very highly paid lawyers.  The following is another excerpt from the report

“The US has passed legislation to limit speculation, but the controls have not been implemented due to a legal challenge from Wall Street spearheaded by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, of which Goldman Sachs is a leading member. Similar legislation is on the table at the EU, but the UK government has so far opposed effective controls. Goldman Sachs has lobbied against controls in both the US and the EU.”

Posted below is a chart that shows what this kind of activity has done to commodity prices over the past couple of decades.  You will notice that commodity prices were fairly stable in the 1990s, but since the year 2000 they have been extremely volatile…

Commodity Prices

The reason for all of this volatility was explained in an excellent article by Frederick Kaufman

The money tells the story. Since the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, there has been a 50-fold increase in dollars invested in commodity index funds. To put the phenomenon in real terms: In 2003, the commodities futures market still totaled a sleepy $13 billion. But when the global financial crisis sent investors running scared in early 2008, and as dollars, pounds, and euros evaded investor confidence, commodities — including food — seemed like the last, best place for hedge, pension, and sovereign wealth funds to park their cash. “You had people who had no clue what commodities were all about suddenly buying commodities,” an analyst from the United States Department of Agriculture told me. In the first 55 days of 2008, speculators poured $55 billion into commodity markets, and by July, $318 billion was roiling the markets. Food inflation has remained steady since.

The money flowed, and the bankers were ready with a sparkling new casino of food derivatives. Spearheaded by oil and gas prices (the dominant commodities of the index funds) the new investment products ignited the markets of all the other indexed commodities, which led to a problem familiar to those versed in the history of tulips, dot-coms, and cheap real estate: a food bubble. Hard red spring wheat, which usually trades in the $4 to $6 dollar range per 60-pound bushel, broke all previous records as the futures contract climbed into the teens and kept on going until it topped $25. And so, from 2005 to 2008, the worldwide price of food rose 80 percent –and has kept rising.

Are you angry yet?

You should be.

Poor families all over the planet are suffering so that Wall Street bankers can make bigger profits.

It’s disgusting.

Many big financial institutions just seem to love to make money on the backs of the poor.  I have previously reported on how JP Morgan makes billions of dollars issuing food stamp cards in the United States.  When the number of Americans on food stamps goes up, so does the amount of money that JP Morgan makes.  You can read much more about all of this right here: “Making Money On Poverty: JP Morgan Makes Bigger Profits When The Number Of Americans On Food Stamps Goes Up“.

Sadly, the global food supply is getting tighter with each passing day, and things are looking rather ominous for the years ahead.

According to the United Nations, global food reserves have reached their lowest level in nearly 40 years.  Global food reserves have not been this low since 1974, but the population of the world has greatly increased since then.  If 2013 is another year of drought and bad harvests, things could spiral out of control rather quickly…

World grain reserves are so dangerously low that severe weather in the United States or other food-exporting countries could trigger a major hunger crisis next year, the United Nations has warned.

Failing harvests in the US, Ukraine and other countries this year have eroded reserves to their lowest level since 1974. The US, which has experienced record heatwaves and droughts in 2012, now holds in reserve a historically low 6.5% of the maize that it expects to consume in the next year, says the UN.

“We’ve not been producing as much as we are consuming. That is why stocks are being run down. Supplies are now very tight across the world and reserves are at a very low level, leaving no room for unexpected events next year,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The world has barely been able to feed itself for some time now.  In fact, we have consumed more food than we have produced for 6 of the last 11 years

Evan Fraser, author of Empires of Food and a geography lecturer at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, says: “For six of the last 11 years the world has consumed more food than it has grown. We do not have any buffer and are running down reserves. Our stocks are very low and if we have a dry winter and a poor rice harvest we could see a major food crisis across the board.”

“Even if things do not boil over this year, by next summer we’ll have used up this buffer and consumers in the poorer parts of the world will once again be exposed to the effects of anything that hurts production.”

We desperately need a good growing season next summer, and all eyes are on the United States.  The U.S. exports more food than anyone else does, and last summer the United States experienced the worst drought that it had seen in about 50 years.  That drought left deep scars all over the country.  The following is from a recent Rolling Stone article

In 2012, more than 9 million acres went up in flames in this country. Only dredging and some eleventh-hour rain kept the mighty Mississippi River from being shut down to navigation due to low water levels; continuing drought conditions make “long-term stabilization” of river levels unlikely in the near future. Several of the Great Lakes are soon expected to hit their lowest levels in history. In Nebraska last summer, a 100-mile stretch of the Platte River simply dried up. Drought led the USDA to declare federal disaster areas in 2,245 counties in 39 states last year, and the federal government will likely have to pay tens of billions for crop insurance and lost crops. As ranchers became increasingly desperate to feed their livestock, “hay rustling” and other agricultural crimes rose.

Ranchers were hit particularly hard.  Because they couldn’t feed their herds, many ranchers slaughtered a tremendous number of animals.  As a result, the U.S. cattle herd is now sitting at a 60 year low.

What do you think that is going to do to meat prices over the next few years?

Meanwhile, the drought continues.  According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, this is one of the worst winter droughts the U.S. has ever seen.  At this point, more than 60 percent of the entire nation is currently experiencing drought.

If things don’t turn around dramatically, 2013 could be an absolutely nightmarish year for crops in the United States.  If 2013 does turn out to be another bad year, food prices would soar both in the U.S. and on the global level.  The following is from a recent CNBC article

The severe drought that swept through much of the U.S. last year is continuing into 2013, threatening to cripple economic growth while forcing consumers to pay higher food prices.

“The drought will have a significant impact on prices, especially beef, pork and chicken,” said Ernie Gross, an economic professor at Creighton University and who studies farming issues.

So let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

It looks like higher food prices are on the way, and millions of poor families all over the planet will be hard-pressed to feed their families.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs will be laughing all the way to the bank.

A Global Food Crisis Is Coming - Are You Ready? - Photo by Oxfam East Africa

35 Statistics About The Working Poor In America That Will Blow Your Mind

35 Statistics About The Working Poor In America That Will Blow Your MindIn America tonight, tens of millions of men and women will struggle to get to sleep because they are stressed out about not making enough money even though they are working as hard as they possibly can.  They are called “the working poor”, and their numbers are absolutely exploding.  As a recent Gallup poll showed, Americans are more concerned about the economy than they are about anything else.  But why are Americans so stressed out about our economic situation if things are supposedly getting better?  Well, the truth is that unemployment is not actually going down, and the real unemployment numbers are actually much worse than what is officially being reported by the government.  But unemployment is only part of the story.  Most American workers are still able to find jobs, but an increasing proportion of them are not able to make ends meet at the end of the month.  Our economy continues to bleed good paying middle class jobs, and to a large degree those jobs are being replaced by low income jobs.  Approximately one-fourth of all American workers make 10 dollars an hour or less at this point, and we see them all around us every day.  They flip our burgers, they cut our hair and they take our money at the supermarket.  In many homes, both parents are working multiple jobs, and yet when a child gets sick or a car breaks down they find that they don’t have enough money to pay the bill.  Many of these families have gone into tremendous amounts of debt in order to try to stay afloat, but once you get caught in a cycle of debt it can be incredibly difficult to break out of that.

So what is the solution?  Well, the easy answer would be that we need the U.S. economy to start producing more good paying jobs, but that is easier said than done.  Our big corporations continue to ship huge numbers of good paying manufacturing jobs out of the country, and millions of Americans have been forced to scramble to find whatever work is available.  Today, there are so many very talented American workers that are trapped in low wage work.  According to the Working Poor Families Project, “about one-fourth of adults in low-income working families were employed in just eight occupations, as cashiers, cooks, health aids, janitors, maids, retail salespersons, waiters and waitresses, or drivers.”  A lot of those people could do so much more for society, but they don’t have the opportunity.

Sadly, the percentage of low paying jobs in our economy continues to increase with each passing year, so this is a problem that is only going to get worse.  So don’t look down on the working poor.  The good paying job that you have right now could disappear at any time and you could end up joining their ranks very soon.

The following are 35 statistics about the working poor in America that will blow your mind…

#1 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either “poor” or “low income”.

#2 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 57 percent of all American children live in a home that is either “poor” or “low income”.

#3 Back in 2007, about 28 percent of all working families were considered to be among “the working poor”.  Today, that number is up to 32 percent even though our politicians tell us that the economy is supposedly recovering.

#4 Back in 2007, 21 million U.S. children lived in “working poor” homes.  Today, that number is up to 23.5 million.

#5 In Arkansas, Mississippi and New Mexico, more than 40 percent all of working families are considered to be “low income”.

#6 Families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

#7 Half of all American workers earn $505 or less per week.

#8 At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

#9 Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

#10 Median household income in the United States has fallen for four consecutive years.

#11 Median household income for families with children dropped by a whopping $6,300 between 2001 and 2011.

#12 The U.S. economy continues to trade good paying jobs for low paying jobs.  60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

#13 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#14 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.

#15 There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing.  That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

#16 Low income families spend about 8.6 percent of their incomes on gasoline.  Other families spend about 2.1 percent.

#17 In 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  Today, only 55.1 percent are covered by employment-based health insurance.

#18 According to one survey, 77 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time.

#19 Millions of working poor families in America end up taking on debt in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, but before too long they find themselves in a debt trap that they can never escape.  According to a recent article in the New York Times, the average debt burden for U.S. households that earn $20,000 a year or less “more than doubled to $26,000 between 2001 and 2010“.

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

#21 According to the Economic Policy Institute, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans households on average have 288 times the amount of wealth that the average middle class American family does.

#22 In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

#23 According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.

#24 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have a net worth that is roughly equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans combined.

#25 Sadly, the bottom 60 percent of all Americans own just 2.3 percent of all the financial wealth in the United States.

#26 The average CEO now makes approximately 350 times as much as the average American worker makes.

#27 Corporate profits as a percentage of GDP are at an all-time high.  Meanwhile, wages as a percentage of GDP are near an all-time low.

#28 Today, 40 percent of all Americans have $500 or less in savings.

#29 The number of families in the United States living on 2 dollars a day or less more than doubled between 1996 and 2011.

#30 The number of Americans on food stamps has grown from 17 million in the year 2000 to more than 47 million today.

#31 Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps.  Today, about one out of every 6.5 Americans is on food stamps.

#32 More than one out of every four children in the United States is enrolled in the food stamp program.

#33 Incredibly, a higher percentage of children is living in poverty in America today than was the case back in 1975.

#34 If you can believe it, the federal government hands out money to 128 million Americans every single month.

#35 Federal spending on welfare has reached nearly a trillion dollars a year, and it is being projected that it will increase by another 80 percent over the next decade.

The Working Poor - Photo by Jml0519 at en.wikipedia

20 Signs That The U.S. Poverty Explosion Is Hitting Children And Young People The Hardest

20 Signs That The U.S. Poverty Explosion Is Hitting Children And Young People The Hardest - Photo by Franco FoliniThe mainstream media continues to insist that the economy is “getting better”, but the poverty numbers for children and young people just continue to explode.  For example, did you know that the poverty rate for families with a head of household under the age of 30 is a whopping 37 percent?  Children and young people sure didn’t cause our recent economic downturn, but they sure are getting hit the hardest by it.  According to the U.S. Department of Education, for the first time ever more than a million U.S. public school students are homeless.  That seems like an impossible number, but it is actually true.  How in the world could the “wealthiest nation on earth” get to the point where more than a million children can’t count on a warm bed to sleep in at night?  Sadly, a huge number of American children can’t count on a warm dinner either.  About a fourth of them are enrolled in the food stamp program.  What do you do if you are a parent in that kind of situation?  How do you explain to your kids that you can’t afford a nice home like everybody else has or that you can’t afford to go to the grocery store and buy them some dinner?

Young people are experiencing very rough times right now as well.  If you are under the age of 30, it is really, really difficult to get a job in America today.  The competition for the few decent jobs that seem to be available is absolutely crazy.  Unemployment among young people is at a level that we have not seen since World War II, and this is causing major problems.

Even if you do have a college degree, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get any type of a job.  In fact, more than half of all college graduates under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed last year.  There are millions of very talented college graduates that are waiting tables, making sandwiches or stocking shelves down at the local branch of a global retail conglomerate.  Meanwhile, they are saddled with record breaking amounts of student loan debt.

This is easily the worst economic environment that we have seen for young people since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  The number of good jobs continues to decline.  Many young people are faced with the choice of taking a bad job or having no job at all.

If you are under 30 in America today, you better hope that you come from a wealthy family or that you have some really good connections, because otherwise the future looks pretty bleak for you.

The following are 20 signs that the U.S. poverty explosion is hitting children and young people the hardest…

1. If you can believe it, a higher percentage of children is living in poverty in America today than was the case back in 1975.

2. More than one out of every five children in the United States is currently living in poverty.

3. According to U.S. Census data, 57 percent of all American children live in a home that is either considered to be “poor” or “low income”.

4. Median household income for families with children dropped by a whopping $6,300 between 2001 and 2011.

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

6. It is being projected that half of all American children will be on food stamps at least once before they turn 18 years of age.

7. One university study estimates that child poverty costs the U.S. economy 500 billion dollars each year.

8. The 18 to 24 age group has a higher unemployment rate than any other age group in the United States.

9. Young adult employment is now at the lowest level that we have seen since World War II.

10. In 2007, the unemployment rate for the 20 to 29 age bracket was about 6.5 percent.  Today, the unemployment rate for that same age group is about 13 percent.

11. Families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

12. Family homelessness in the Washington D.C. region (one of the wealthiest regions in the entire country) has risen 23 percent since the last recession began.

13. Since the year 2000, incomes for U.S. households led by someone between the ages of 25 and 34 have fallen by about 12 percent after you account for inflation.

14. In 1984, the median net worth of households led by someone 65 or older was 10 times larger than the median net worth of households led by someone 35 or younger.  Today, the median net worth of households led by someone 65 or older is 47 times larger than the median net worth of households led by someone 35 or younger.

15. During 2011, 53 percent of all Americans with a bachelor’s degree under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed.

16. Many young people are finding that they cannot afford to get married these days.  Sadly, an all-time low 44.2 percent of all Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 are married right now.

17. Right now, approximately 53 percent of all Americans in the 18 to 24 age group are living at home.

18. The number of Americans in the 25 to 34 age group that live with their parents has grown by 25 percent since 2007.

19. One survey discovered that 85 percent of all college seniors plan on moving back in with their parents after graduation.

20. Overall, approximately 25 million American adults are living with their parents in the United States right now according to Time Magazine.

After reading all of those statistics, do you still doubt that America is in decline?  If so, you can find some more shocking statistics right here.

The truth is that it should be painfully evident to anyone with a brain that our economy is not working correctly anymore.  We have lots of talented people, but there are not nearly enough jobs and a lot of those very talented people end up sleeping out in the streets.

A recent New York Times article told the story of a young man named Duane Taylor.  Sadly, there are way too many young people out there today that are experiencing the same kind of things that he is…

Duane Taylor was studying the humanities in community college and living in his own place when he lost his job in a round of layoffs. Then he found, and lost, a second job. And a third.

Now, with what he calls “lowered standards” and a tenuous new position at a Jack in the Box restaurant, Mr. Taylor, 24, does not make enough to rent an apartment or share one. He sleeps on a mat in a homeless shelter, except when his sister lets him crash on her couch.

“At any time I could lose my job, my security,” said Mr. Taylor, explaining how he was always the last hired and the first fired. “I’d like to be able to support myself. That’s my only goal.”

There are millions upon millions of young people in America today that feel totally lost because they cannot find their places in the world.

They are angry, frustrated, depressed, desperate and disillusioned.  They felt like they did everything that the system told them to do, and now they feel like the system is failing them.

An unemployed 2010 graduate of the University of Florida named Lance Fuller expresses similar sentiments on his blog entitled “Voices Of A Lost Generation“…

They are the countless young men and women eager for an opportunity but have found few, if any. They have desirable skills, are highly educated, and are more than willing to work.

Sadly, crippled by college debt and graduated into a struggling economy, they stand little chance to find gainful employment in their chosen fields and take temporary jobs they are overqualified for. They lie waiting for the dream job they went to school for — but it probably doesn’t exist.

My name is Lance and sadly, I share in this story. Like my twentysomething peers, I am one of the thousands of faces of America’s Generation U — Unfortunate, Unlucky, and Unemployed.

I am fortunate that I have never been without money to buy food and have never had to spend a night on the street.  But tonight millions upon millions of Americans under the age of 30 will be faced with those kinds of circumstances.

Please say a prayer for them.  They didn’t cause the economic mess that we are in, but they are certainly paying the price for the mistakes that were made.

Does anyone out there have a similar story to the ones that were shared in this article?  If so, please feel free to share it below.  Perhaps your story will encourage someone else out there who is going through a really hard time right now.

Sad Child - Photo by David Shankbone

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