The debt crisis in Puerto Rico could potentially cost financial institutions in the United States tens of billions of dollars in losses. This week, Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla publicly announced that Puerto Rico’s 73 billion dollar debt is “not payable,” and a special adviser that was recently appointed to help straighten out the island’s finances said that it is “insolvent” and will totally run out of cash very shortly. At this point, Puerto Rico’s debt is approximately 15 times larger than the per capita median debt of the 50 U.S. states. Yes, the Greek debt crisis is larger, as Greece currently owes about $350 billion to the rest of the planet. But only about $14 billion of that total is owed to U.S. financial institutions. But with Puerto Rico, things are very different. Just about the entire 73 billion dollar debt is owed to U.S. financial institutions, and this could potentially cause massive problems for some extremely leveraged Wall Street firms.
There is a reason why Puerto Rico is called “America’s Greece”. In Puerto Rico today, more than 40 percent of the population is living in poverty, the unemployment rate is over 12 percent, and the economy of the small island nation has continually been in recession since 2006.
Yet all this time Puerto Rico has continued to pile up even more debt. Finally, it has gotten to the point where all of this debt is simply unpayable
Steven Rhodes, the retired U.S. bankruptcy judge who oversaw Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and has now been retained by Puerto Rico to help solve its problems, gave a blunt assessment on Monday.
Puerto Rico “urgently needs our help,” Rhodes said. “It can no longer pay its debts, it will soon run out of cash to operate, its residents and businesses will suffer,” he added.
This is why I hammer on the danger of U.S. government debt so often. As we see with the examples of Greece and Puerto Rico, eventually a day of reckoning always arrives. And when the day of reckoning arrives, power shifts into the hands of those that you owe the money too.
It would be hard to understate just how severe the debt crisis in Puerto Rico has become. Former IMF economist Anne Krueger has gone so far as to say that it is “really dire”…
“The situation is dire, and I mean really dire,” said former IMF economist Anne Krueger, co-author of the report commissioned by the U.S. territory, which recommended debt restructuring, tax hikes and spending cuts. “The needed measures may face political resistance but failure to address the issues would affect even more the people of Puerto Rico.”
So who is going to get left holding the bag?
As I mentioned at the top of this article, major U.S. financial institutions are very heavily exposed. Income from Puerto Rican bonds is exempt from state and federal taxation, and so that made them very attractive to many U.S. investors. According to USA Today, there are 180 mutual funds that have “at least 5% of their portfolios in Puerto Rican bonds”…
The inability of the U.S. territory to repay its debt, combined with the financial crisis in Greece, would have far-reaching implications for financial markets and unsuspecting American investors. Morningstar, an investment research firm based in Chicago, estimated in 2013 that 180 mutual funds in the United States and elsewhere have at least 5% of their portfolios in Puerto Rican bonds.
It is important to keep in mind that many of these financial institutions are very highly leveraged. So just a “couple of percentage points” could mean the different between life and death for some of these firms.
And unlike what is happening with Greece, the private financial institutions that hold Puerto Rican bonds are not likely to be very eager to “negotiate”. In fact, the largest holder of Puerto Rican debt has already stated that it is very much against any kind of restructuring…
U.S. fund manager OppenheimerFunds, the largest holder of Puerto Rico debt among U.S. municipal bond funds, warned the island it stands ready to defend the terms of bonds it holds, a day after the governor said he wanted to restructure debt and postpone bond payments.
What Oppenheimer is essentially saying is that it does not plan to give Puerto Rico any slack at all. Here is more from the article that I just quoted above…
OppenheimerFunds, with about $4.5 billion exposure to Puerto Rico according to Morningstar, said it believed the island could repay bondholders while providing essential services to citizens and growing the economy. It said it stood ready “to defend the previously agreed to terms in each and every bond indenture.”
“We are disheartened that Governor Padilla, in a public forum, has called for negotiations with other creditors, representing and including the millions of individual Americans that hold Puerto Rico municipal bonds,” a spokesman for Oppenheimer said in a statement.
But Puerto Rico simply does not have the money to meet all of their debt obligations.
So somebody is not going to get paid at some point.
When that happens, those that insure Puerto Rican bonds are also going to take tremendous losses. The following comes from a recent piece by Stephen Flood…
Now, bondholders are at risk as are the funds which hold Puerto Rican bonds and, more importantly, those who insure them in the derivatives market.
Dave Kranzler, from Investment Research Dynamics has warned that there are signs that the Puerto Rico situation may not remain a local crisis for much longer.
He points out that share prices of MBIA, the bond insurers, have been plummeting. MBIA are valued at $3.9 billion whereas their exposure to Puerto Rican debt is around $4.5 billion. Kranzler reckons their exposure could even be multiples of that figure. A default could wipe them out.
He also points out that the firm’s largest shareholders are Warburg Pincus, the firm to which Timothy Geithner went after his stint as Treasury Secretary, when he helped paper over the chasms opening up in the financial system.
Did you notice the word “derivatives” in that quote?
Hmmm – who has been writing endless articles warning about the danger of derivatives for years?
Who has been warning that “this gigantic time bomb is going to go off and absolutely cripple the entire global financial system“?
When Puerto Rico defaults, bond insurers are going to be expected to step up and make huge debt service payments to investors.
But this just might bankrupt some of these big bond insurers. In fact, we have already started to see the stock prices of some of these bond insurers begin to plummet. The following comes from the Wall Street Journal…
Bond insurers MBIA Inc. and Ambac Financial Group Inc. are down again Tuesday as concerns over Puerto Rico’s ability to repay its debt multiply.
Investors fear that both firms face the potential for steep losses on their promises to backstop billions of Puerto Rico’s $72 billion of debt.
MBIA’s stock closed down 23% Monday, and fell more than 10% before rebounding Tuesday. By late afternoon, the stock was down 6%. Ambac’s stock fell 12% Monday and was off 14% Tuesday.
Of course Puerto Rico is just the tip of the iceberg of the coming debt crisis in the western hemisphere, just like Greece is just the tip of the iceberg of the coming debt crisis in Europe.
So stay tuned, because the second half of 2015 has now begun, and the remainder of this calendar year promises to be extremely “interesting”.
According to the Federal Reserve, the percentage of American families that own a small business is at the lowest level that has ever been recorded. In a report that was just released entitled “Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2010 to 2013: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances“, the Federal Reserve revealed that small business ownership in America “fell substantially” between 2010 and 2013. Even in the midst of this so-called “economic recovery”, small business ownership in America has now fallen to an all-time low. If the economy truly was healthy, this would not be happening. And it isn’t as if Americans are flooding the labor market either. As I detailed yesterday, the labor force participation rate in this country is at a 36 year low. That would not be happening if the economy was actually healthy either. The truth is that the middle class in America is dying, and this new report from the Federal Reserve is more evidence of this very harsh reality.
In order to build wealth, middle class Americans either need to have their own businesses or they need good jobs. Sadly, the percentage of Americans that own a business continues to decline steadily. In the report that I mentioned above, the Federal Reserve says that the proportion of U.S. families that have an ownership interest in a small business fell from 13.3 percent in 2010 to a brand new all-time low of 11.7 percent in 2013.
This is one of the factors that is increasing the gap between the extremely wealthy and the rest of us in this country. And of course another of the major factors is the steady decline in good paying jobs.
The U.S. Competitiveness Project at Harvard Business School is chaired by professors Michael E. Porter and Jan W. Rivkin. It just released a new report entitled “An Economy Doing Half Its Job”, and it addressed the fact that the middle class is deeply struggling even though many large U.S. corporations have been thriving. The following is an excerpt from an article in the Boston Globe about this report…
In a statement, Porter added: “Shortsighted executives may be satisfied with an American economy where firms operating here are winning without lifting US living standards. But leaders with longer perspectives understand that companies can’t thrive for long while their workers and their communities struggle.”
Unfortunately, this is not likely to change any time soon. In fact, that same report discovered that Harvard Business School alumni foresee “falling pay and fewer openings for full-time jobs” for American workers in the years ahead…
U.S. workers face a dim future, with stagnant or falling pay and fewer openings for full-time jobs.
That’s the picture that emerges from a survey of Harvard Business School alumni.
More than 40 percent of the respondents foresee lower pay and benefits for workers. Roughly half favor outsourcing work over hiring staffers. A growing share prefer part-time employees. Nearly half would rather invest in new technology than hire or retain workers.
The Obama administration continues to tell us that the unemployment rate is “going down” and that the economy is recovering, but that does not match the reality of what most Americans are experiencing on a day to day basis.
As David Stockman recently so aptly put it, outside of health and education the U.S. economy has not produced a single job since mid-2000 even though our population has grown greatly since that time…
In a few deft seconds, a “no jobs” nobody who apparently doesn’t actually have one himself, essentially explained the contents of the chart below to his silenced CNBC hosts. Over the course of 170 “jobs Fridays” since mid-2000, the latter have apparently never noticed the single most stunning fact embedded in the monthly BLS report. Namely, that outside of health and education there has not been one net new job created in the American economy since July 2000! Yes, not a single new job—as in none, nein, nichts, nada, zip!
In addition, most of the new jobs that are being “added to the economy” each month are part-time jobs. Right now, we still have 1.4 million fewer full-time jobs than we did in 2008 even though more than 100,000 people are added to the population each month.
What this means is that the middle class is shrinking.
We are witnessing an increasing concentration of wealth among the ultra-wealthy, and most of the rest of us are getting poorer. As a recent CNN article detailed, the Federal Reserve has also discovered that the gap between the rich and the poor in America is larger than the Fed has ever recorded before…
In its Study of Consumer Finances, released every three years, the Fed found that the wealthiest 3% of American households controlled 54.4% of the nation’s wealth in 2013, a slight increase from its last survey in 2010. It’s also substantially higher from the 44.8% they held in 1989, showing how quickly the income divide has been growing over the past decade or so.
At the same time, the share of wealth held by the bottom 90% fell to 24.7% in 2013. That’s compared to 33.2% in 1989.
How close does the share of wealth for the bottom 90 percent have to go before we admit that we have a major problem on our hands?
Is there anyone out there that would be okay with it hitting zero percent?
One of the big reasons why the wealthy have been doing so well is because the stock market has been soaring. The money printing policies of the Federal Reserve have sent stock prices to unprecedented heights. This has overwhelmingly benefited the extremely wealthy…
According to recent data from the Federal Reserve, America has the lowest level of stock ownership in 18 years. Yet stock ownership for the wealthy is at a new high—and that has accounted for most of their good fortune compared to the rest of America.
In fact, the Fed says that the wealthiest top 10 percent of all Americans now own 81 percent of all stocks…
Stock ownership is even more concentrated when it comes to share of total stock holdings. In 2010, the latest period available, the top 10 percent of Americans by net worth held 81 percent of all directly held or indirectly held stocks, according to Edward N. Wolff, an economics professor at New York University who specializes in inequality and Federal Reserve data.
Wolff said that share—which has not been released yet for 2013—has probably gone even higher than 81 percent since 2010.
Since the last financial crisis, the Federal Reserve has been very good to the elite.
But most of the rest of us have had a really hard time.
Until more Americans start getting good jobs and building small businesses, things are not going to turn around for the middle class.
But the policies being pursued by our politicians continue to kill good jobs and continue to kill small businesses, so I wouldn’t expect significant changes any time soon.
The number of Americans receiving money directly from the federal government has grown from 94 million in the year 2000 to over 128 million today. A shocking new research paper by Patrick Tyrrell and William W. Beach contains that statistic and a whole bunch of other very revealing numbers. According to their research, the federal government hands out money to 41.3 percent of the entire population of the United States each month. Overall, more than 70 percent of all federal spending goes to what they call “dependence-creating programs”. It is the most massive wealth redistribution scheme in the history of the world, and it continues to grow at a very rapid pace with each passing month. But can we really afford this? Of course we never want to see a single person go without food to eat or a roof to sleep under, but can the federal government really afford to support 128 million Americans every month? If millions more Americans keep jumping on to the “safety net” each year, how long will it be before it breaks and it is not there for anyone? The federal government is already drowning in debt. This year the U.S. national debt will easily blow past the 17 trillion dollar mark and we are rapidly heading toward financial oblivion. We are stealing more than 100 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every single hour of every single day with no end in sight. If we don’t get our finances in order as a nation, what will the end result be?
According to Tyrrell and Beach, federal spending on entitlement programs has been rising more than 6 times as fast as population growth has in recent years…
Between 1988 and 2011, spending on dependence-creating federal government programs has increased 180 percent versus “only” a 62 percent increase in the number of people who are enrolled in federal government programs, and a 27 percent increase in the population. Not only are more people enrolled in government programs than ever before, but more US taxpayer dollars are being spent on each recipient every year.
But even though the numbers that Tyrrell and Beach present in their paper are incredibly shocking, the truth is that they have probably underestimated the true scope of government dependence in America today. Just consider the following numbers…
Back in the year 2000, there were about 17 million Americans on food stamps. That number has exploded to more than 47 million today.
If you can believe it, today more than 70 million Americans are on Medicaid, and it is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.
Right now, there are more than 53 million Americans on Social Security, and that number is projected to absolutely explode as huge waves of Baby Boomers retire in the coming years.
As I wrote about in a previous article, the number of Americans on Medicare is expected to grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.
And those are only four examples of government programs that have seen their numbers explode in recent years. There are so many more that could be mentioned. Overall, the federal government runs nearly 80 different “means-tested welfare programs“, and almost all of them are experiencing explosive growth.
So is the “128 million” figure that Tyrrell and Beach have come up with actually too low? I believe that it is. But in any event, nobody can deny that the “welfare state” in the U.S. has absolutely mushroomed in size since the turn of the century.
According to one recent poll, 55 percent of all Americans say that they have received money from a safety net program run by the federal government at some point in their lives. We are a nation that has become very comfortable leaning on Uncle Sam for help.
And poor people from all around the globe see how good things are here and they are eager to get a seat at the table. In a previous article, I talked about a federal government website (“WelcomeToUSA.gov“) that actually teaches new immigrants how to apply for welfare once they are able to get into the United States.
Will we all eventually becoming dependent on the government? If that happens will we still be free men and women?
Once someone is dependent on the government, they become forced to do what the government tells them to do in order to survive. If we all eventually become dependent on the federal government, how much power will that give them over us?
That is something to think about.
Another thing to ponder is how the U.S. middle class is rapidly disappearing.
There will always be poor people, and we should always take care of them, but what we should be truly alarmed about is how the middle class in America has been dramatically shrinking in recent years.
One of the biggest reasons why so many Americans are applying for government assistance these days is because there simply aren’t enough jobs for everyone. Politicians from both political parties have fully embraced the one world “free trade” economic agenda of the global elite, and as a result millions of our jobs are being shipped out of the country. Big corporations can either choose to pay U.S. workers a living wage with benefits, or they can choose to set up shop on the other side of the globe where it is legal to pay workers slave labor wages with no benefits. Plus there are much fewer taxes and regulations to deal with typically on the other side of the globe.
As long as this nation pursues this “one world economic agenda”, there will never be enough jobs in the United States ever again. Chronic unemployment will become the new normal. Our formerly great manufacturing cities will continue to degenerate into gang-infested war zones.
Apologists for the current system continue to insist that the answer is “more education”, but the truth is that government dependence is even exploding among those with advanced degrees. The following is a brief excerpt from a recent article on The Chronicle Of Higher Education…
People who don’t finish college are more likely to receive food stamps than are those who go to graduate school. The rolls of people on public assistance are dominated by people with less education. Nevertheless, the percentage of graduate-degree holders who receive food stamps or some other aid more than doubled between 2007 and 2010.
During that three-year period, the number of people with master’s degrees who received food stamps and other aid climbed from 101,682 to 293,029, and the number of people with Ph.D.’s who received assistance rose from 9,776 to 33,655, according to tabulations of microdata done by Austin Nichols, a senior researcher with the Urban Institute. He drew on figures from the 2008 and 2011 Current Population Surveys done by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor.
After reading that, does anyone still believe that “more education” is the answer to our problems?
What we need is more jobs, and lots of them. Unfortunately, our politicians continue to pursue policies that absolutely kill American jobs.
So the number of Americans that are forced to turn to the government for assistance will continue to grow, as will our national debt.
Sadly, most Americans still don’t realize what is happening. Most of them are still listening to those in the mainstream media that are insisting that everything is going to be just fine.
For example, the most famous economic journalist in the country, Paul Krugman of the New York Times, recently wrote that the deficit crisis has been “solved”…
True, there are projected problems further down the road, mainly because of the continuing effects of an aging population. But it still comes as something of a shock to realize that at this point reasonable projections do not, repeat do not, show anything resembling the runaway deficit crisis that is a staple of almost everything you hear, including supposedly objective news reporting.
So you heard it here first: while you weren’t looking, and the deficit scolds were doing their scolding, the deficit problem (such as it was) was being mostly solved.
I don’t know how in the world Paul Krugman can get paid to write such nonsense, but the truth is that our government debt problems are only just beginning.
In a previous article, I explained that the unfunded liabilities of the federal government are growing so rapidly that we could not cover them even if we raised the highest tax rate to 100%…
According to Chris Cox and Bill Archer, two men who served on Bill Clinton’s Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform, there is no way in the world that we could raise taxes high enough to pay for all of the obligations that we are currently taking on. They say that even if we taxed all corporations and all individuals at a 100% tax rate on all income over $66,193, “it wouldn’t be nearly enough to fund the over $8 trillion per year in the growth of U.S. liabilities.“
Yes, Paul Krugman, we do have a spending problem. Even if Bill Gates gave every single penny of his fortune to the federal government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for about 15 days. We simply cannot go on spending money like this.
If anyone out there believes Paul Krugman and is convinced that the federal government is no longer facing a massive debt problem, please read this article: “55 Facts About The Debt And U.S. Government Finances That Every American Voter Should Know“.
But if we can’t afford to do all of this spending, then why are we doing it?
Well, it is because there are a whole lot of people out there that are really hurting. Poverty in the U.S. is absolutely exploding, and the gap between the wealthy and the poor has grown to unprecedented heights.
According to a recent article posted on Economy In Crisis, the bottom 60 percent of all Americans only own 2.3 percent of all the financial wealth in the nation combined.
That is astounding.
If you live in a wealthy area of the country, you may look around and things may look really good to you. But in many other areas of the country things are worse than they have ever been in the post-World War II era. 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.
Can you imagine that? We have over a million kids that are attending our public schools that do not have a home to go back to at night.
Our economy desperately needs more jobs, but we just continue to lose more of them. On Thursday, it was announced that American Express is eliminating 5,400 more jobs. More announcements like this come out just about every day now. 65 percent of all Americans expect 2013 to be a year of “economic difficulty”, and there aren’t a whole lot of reasons to be optimistic about things at this point.
When you lose your job, it can feel like your entire life is falling apart. The competition for jobs is absolutely fierce, and a lot of workers have fallen through the cracks. In this rough economic environment, there are millions of Americans that have never been able to put the pieces of their lives back together. A recent CNN article profiled a 42-year-old woman up in Oregon named Lynette who has had her life totally turned upside down by unemployment…
I’m a single mom with a son in high school.
Three years ago, I was laid off from a job working at a propane company. I had just gotten back on my feet after battling breast cancer, then cervical cancer, but the economy tanked, and I was the first to go.
I am now 42, and the cancer is gone. But it appears my employability is also gone.
She used to work in a position that helped others find government assistance, but now she is the one who has been forced to seek it…
Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I worked for the state of Oregon and was the number one service manager for the Department of Human Services. My job was to help low income families find work and get food stamps and insurance. Now, I cannot even get a job at McDonalds, and I’m the one living on social assistance.
Does anyone out there have a similar story to share? If so, please feel free to share it below…
The fiscal cliff deal contains more bad news than it does good news. Yes, the tax increases on the middle class could have been much worse, and we should be thankful that Congress at least did something for the middle class. Unfortunately, they didn’t do enough. Every American worker is going to pay higher taxes next year as a result of this deal. The fiscal cliff deal represents the biggest tax increase in 20 years, and it is also projected to increase the U.S. national debt by an additional 4 trillion dollars over the next decade. In the final analysis, U.S. government finances are still wildly out of control and we are all going to be paying higher taxes. Not a whole lot to be excited about, and nothing has really been fixed for the long-term. Our politicians have kicked the can down the road once again, but someday they will run out of road and all of this debt will absolutely crush us. And of course a lot of our politicians didn’t even really know what they were voting for. The fiscal cliff bill was more than 150 pages long, and our Senators got the bill into their hands just 3 minutes before they voted on it. So none of them actually read the bill. But that is the way things work in America today. The blind are leading the blind and everyone is mindlessly hoping that everything will turn out okay somehow.
For a few moments, let’s take a closer look at the fiscal cliff deal. There are some good things in there, there are some bad things in there, and there are some things about the deal that are downright ugly.
-One of the best things about the fiscal cliff deal is that income tax rates did not rise on the poor and the middle class. This is great news for millions of families that are struggling to make ends meet each month. A significant rise in income tax rates would have been crippling.
-The Alternative Minimum Tax will now be permanently adjusted for inflation. This is something that I had screamed about in previous articles. If an AMT fix had not been passed, approximately 28 million households would have been hammered with the Alternative Minimum Tax on their 2012 earnings.
-Millions of unemployed workers will continue to receive extended federal unemployment benefits. We probably cannot really afford to keep doing this, but at least now there won’t be millions of unemployed workers that suddenly have their only source of income shut off. The next trick will be to find jobs for all of those workers. Unfortunately, millions of our jobs continue to be shipped to the other side of the world.
-Payroll taxes are going up for every American worker. The fiscal cliff deal allows the 2 percent payroll tax cut to expire, and so now the average U.S. household bringing in about $50,000 a year will pay approximately $1,000 more per year in payroll taxes. As a result, it is being projected that U.S. consumers will have $115 billion less in disposable income to spend in 2013. Happy New Year American workers!
-The fiscal cliff deal did nothing about the new Obamacare taxes that went into effect on January 1st. Many of these taxes will hurt the middle class. To see an example of a receipt where a consumer was charged the new “medical excise tax” in Obamacare, just check out this article.
-The carried-interest deduction loophole remains intact, so incredibly wealthy hedge fund managers will continue to get away with paying very little in taxes. If the rest of us are being taxed into oblivion, then they should share in the pain with the rest of us. Of course I personally believe that the income tax should be abolished entirely, but none of our politicians seem interested in that idea at all.
-Income tax rates will increase for high earners. This will hurt a lot of small businesses. Many small businesses that earn more than $400,000 a year will now be faced with making some really tough choices. Some may have to lay off workers. The top rate will now be 39.6 percent, but when other federal and state taxes are factored in, many small businesses will now be paying a top marginal rate of well over 50 percent. That is absolutely obscene.
-A compromise was reached on the estate tax. The exemption was scheduled to fall to just $1 million and the rate was scheduled to go up to 55 percent, and fortunately Congress decided to do something about that. As I have written about previously, that would have been a disaster for many small businesses and family farms. As a result of the fiscal cliff deal, the estate tax will only rise from 35 percent to 40 percent. The exemption for individuals will be about 5 million dollars and for couples it will be about 10 million dollars, and those figures will now be indexed for inflation. A tax increase is never a good thing, but if Congress had done nothing things would have been far worse.
-The fiscal cliff deal contains a lot of pork. In particular, it contains provisions that extend specific tax breaks related to Puerto Rican rum, electric motorcycles, biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel, the film and television business, and motorsports entertainment complexes.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, as a result of this deal the U.S. national debt will be about $4 trillion higher a decade from now than it would have been if Congress had done nothing.
The deficit for fiscal year 2013 alone will be about $330 billion higher than it would have been if Congress had done nothing.
So this deal has made our debt problems even worse.
Right now, the U.S. has a debt to GDP ratio of about 103 percent. We are already well into the “danger zone”, yet most Americans still don’t seem very concerned about all of this debt.
The fiscal cliff deal contained hardly any spending cuts at all. In fact, there was a 41 to 1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts in the deal. The Democrats definitely won this round. But of course they had most of the leverage. If Congress had done nothing, the middle class would have been absolutely devastated by all of the tax increases, and the Republicans were desperate to prevent that.
But now that the battle over taxes is done, the leverage is going to shift over to the Republicans for the next big fight.
The battle over the debt ceiling is next. If Congress does not act, the U.S. government will soon not be able to borrow any additional money. This battle will be one of the stories that dominates the headlines over the next few months.
If the Republicans want to do something serious about spending, now is their chance. The battle over tax rates is already over, and there is no election in November. The Republicans could conceivably say “NO” to a debt ceiling increase if they want to. If that happened, the federal government would only be able to spend the money that it already has. It would not be able to borrow more. That would mean that we would have to start living within our means.
What a novel concept.
Of course there is no reason to believe that the Republicans in the House will suddenly grow a spine. They have folded every other time that the debt ceiling has come up. It will probably be the same again in 2013.
And Barack Obama is already saying that there will be “no negotiations” over the debt ceiling this time. He expects the Republicans to raise the debt ceiling for him without getting anything in return…
“I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether they will pay the bills they’ve already racked up.”
But the U.S. government cannot spend a single penny or borrow a single penny without the approval of the U.S. House of Representatives.
If the Republicans in the House want to ever get serious about government spending, the upcoming battle over the debt ceiling is a golden opportunity.
They could stop the Obama administration from piling up crazy amounts of debt if they want to. All they need is the courage to take a stand.
During the first four years of the Obama administration, the U.S. government accumulated about as much debt as it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that George W. Bush took office.
The Republicans have had control of the House for about half of that time. That means that they have been willing accomplices.
So will they take a stand?
That is very doubtful. Over the past few years they have exhibited the intestinal fortitude of a frightened chicken. They will probably huff and puff a little bit, but in the end they will probably give in to Obama once again.
But what we are doing to our children and our grandchildren is so immoral that it is hard to describe. We are stealing more than 100 million dollars from them every single hour of every single day, and we plan on leaving them with the biggest pile of debt the world has ever seen. We should be absolutely ashamed of ourselves.
Why can’t we just spend the money that we have?
What would be so wrong with that?
Unfortunately, that would mean such a painful downward adjustment in our standard of living that most Americans would freak out. We are addicted to debt-fueled prosperity, and so we can’t stop stealing from future generations. We need their money to feed our addiction.
In the end, this gigantic mountain of debt is absolutely going to destroy everything that our forefathers built for us. There have been some people that have been warning about this for decades, but the American people did not listen.
Soon enough, we will all pay the price for this foolishness.
Barack Obama and John Boehner both seem absolutely determined to drive U.S. government finances off a cliff. The mainstream media would have you believe that there are vast ideological differences between the two of them and that they are bitter enemies, but that is simply not the case. Both of them say that tax increases are “necessary”, but they disagree over the details. Both are seeking about a trillion dollars of spending cuts and about a trillion dollars of new “revenue”, but they don’t see eye to eye on how to get there. But overall, they are both definitely playing in the same ballpark. And those numbers certainly do sound impressive until you realize that they are talking about a time span of ten years. Personally, I would love to see federal spending cut by a trillion dollars this year. But that will never happen. A trillion dollars over the course of a decade breaks down to about 100 billion dollars per year. That still sounds like a lot of money until you put it up next to the trillion dollar deficits that we have been running for four years in a row. Even if somehow those spending cuts turned out to be real (which they aren’t), they would still only put a very small dent in our yearly budget deficits. Obama and Boehner both want to continue to have a gigantic federal government that showers people with government money, and both of them want to continue to pass much of the burden for paying for this gigantic government on to future generations. And both of them want to continue to steal more than 100 million dollars an hour from our children and our grandchildren in order to maintain the false bubble of debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying right now. This is incredibly foolish and they are leading us down a path that will lead to national ruin.
Sadly, even the pathetically small “budget cut” and “new revenue” figures that they are floating around turn out to be quite hollow when you inspect them more closely.
For example, the “new revenue” figures that both Obama and Boehner are talking about rely on extremely unrealistic assumptions about U.S. economic growth. In order to meet their revenue projections, the U.S. economy would need to grow significantly faster than it is right now and we would need to get through the entire decade without having a single recession.
What do you think the chance of that happening is?
But that is the way that things work in Washington D.C. – our politicians function in a world where it is assumed that everything will work out just perfectly in the future.
For example, if the figures put out at the beginning of the Bush administration were to be believed, we should be absolutely swimming in government surpluses by now.
That didn’t work out too well, did it?
The “spending cuts” are even more illusory.
Obama is projecting that we will save 130 billion dollars by manipulating the way that inflation is calculated for annual increases in Social Security benefits.
But our politicians are already pretending that there is hardly any inflation when any rational person can see that prices are soaring.
So can they really manipulate the numbers to make them look even smaller?
By doing so, they would be cheating elderly Americans out of 130 billion dollars. But I guess this is more convenient for our politicians than going after real government waste.
Obama also plans to save $290 billion by having lower interest payments on U.S. government debt.
Try not to laugh.
The average rate of interest on U.S. government debt was 2.534 percent at the end of November. That is ridiculously low. The only place it is going to go in future years is up.
Back in the year 2000, the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt was 6.638 percent. If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rose back to that level, we would be paying out more than a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.
So Obama’s projection that we are going to save 290 billion dollars over the next ten years by forcing interest rates on U.S. government debt even lower is insanely optimistic. Only a delusional person would make such an assumption.
And most of the savings from the “projected spending cuts” that Obama and Boehner are proposing would not happen until later in the decade.
After all, they don’t want to “hurt the economy” right now.
In fact, Obama is actually proposing that we should increase spending by $80 billion this year so that we can encourage economic activity.
So don’t let anyone fool you with any nonsense about how Obama and Boehner are working on a plan that would get U.S. government finances in order.
No matter how their “negotiations” turn out, we will continue to run trillion dollars deficits year after year with no end in sight.
If Americans want a monstrous federal government that passes out government checks like candy, then they should pay for it. Personally, I think that taxes are already way, way too high and that the government already brings in more than enough money.
If Americans don’t want to pay much higher taxes, then they should tell the government to quit spending money that we don’t have.
But all of this trying to have it both ways has got to stop. We are destroying the future for our children and our grandchildren. We have already run up 16 trillion dollars in debt and we can’t even seem to slow down our reckless debt binge. If they get the chance, someday future generations will curse us for what we did to them.
The funny thing is that John Boehner was supposed to be a “conservative” that was going to do something about all of this debt. But since John Boehner has been Speaker of the House, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation that has increased the size of our national debt by approximately $18,944 per household.
Meanwhile, our economy continues to unravel, good jobs are becoming even more scarce, and poverty continues to explode.
For example, did you know that there are now more than one million homeless students in America? Sadly, it’s true…
The number of homeless students in America topped one million for the first time last year as a result of the economic recession, a number that has risen 57 percent since 2007.
The US Department of Education found that of these 1,065,794 children, many lived in abandoned homes, cheap hotels, stations, church basements and hospitals. Some spent their time sleeping over at the houses of various friends whenever they could. Others fell victim to drugs and sexual abuse, in some cases trading sexual acts for food, clothing and shelter or selling illegal drugs.
Even in the midst of our debt-fueled prosperity, the number of Americans that are dependent on the government just continues to rise.
According to one recent survey, 55 percent of all Americans have received money from a safety net program run by the federal government at some point in their lives.
So how bad will things get when we eventually quit borrowing so much money and we start living within our means?
Nobody is looking forward to that day. Certainly not our politicians. They don’t want to be blamed for all of the painful adjustments that will happen once the party ends.
So they just keep borrowing and spending. But at some point the music will stop and the house of cards will come crashing down.
It won’t happen this week or this month, but it will happen soon enough.
I hope that you are ready.
The future of the United States of America is being systematically destroyed by our politicians, but unfortunately most Americans don’t really grasp exactly what is happening. 30 years ago, our national debt had just crossed the one trillion dollar mark. Just recently, it crossed the 16 trillion dollar mark. Prior to every election, politicians from both parties swear up and down that they will do something about our exploding debt, but it never happens. Once again this year, our politicians are making all kinds of grand promises about getting U.S. government finances under control. But they are also promising all kinds of new plans and programs which are going to cost a lot more money on top of what we are already spending. For the average American, all of this can be incredibly confusing. That is why I have put together a list of facts about the debt and U.S. government finances below. These are things that every voter should know. The federal government is stealing more than a trillion dollars a year from our children and our grandchildren, and they are spending that money in some of the most foolish ways that you could ever imagine. We have accumulated the largest mountain of debt in the history of the world, but our politicians just can’t help themselves – they appear to be absolutely addicted to spending money. If we continue on the path that we are currently on, our entire financial system and our entire economy will be destroyed by all of this debt. Time is running out and urgent action is needed to address this crisis.
Many of our founding fathers attempted to warn us about the dangers of government debt. For example, Thomas Jefferson once said the following…
I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.
Where would we be today if such an amendment had been added to our Constitution?
How much brighter would our future be if the federal government had been forced to only spend what it took in all these years?
Those are very good questions.
The following are 55 facts about the debt and U.S. government finances that every American voter should know….
#1 While Barack Obama has been president, the U.S. government has spent about 11 dollars for every 7 dollars of revenue that it has actually brought in.
#2 During the fiscal year that just ended, the U.S. government took in 2.449 trillion dollars but it spent 3.538 trillion dollars.
#3 During fiscal year 2011, over a trillion dollars of government money was spent on 83 different welfare programs, and those numbers do not even include Social Security or Medicare.
#4 Over the past four years, welfare spending has increased by 32 percent. In inflation-adjusted dollars, spending on those programs has risen by 378 percent over the past 30 years. At this point, more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government. Once again, these figures do not even include Social Security or Medicare.
#5 Over the past year, the number of Americans getting a free cell phone from the federal government has grown by 43 percent. Now more than 16 million Americans are enjoying what has come to be known as an “Obamaphone”.
#6 When Barack Obama first entered the White House, about 32 million Americans were on food stamps. Now, nearly 47 million Americans are on food stamps. And this has happened during what Obama refers to as “an economic recovery”.
#7 The U.S. government recently spent 27 million dollars on pottery classes in Morocco.
#8 The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently spent $300,000 to encourage Americans to eat caviar at a time when more families than ever are having a really hard time just trying to put any food on the table at all.
#9 During 2012, the National Science Foundation spent $516,000 to support the creation of a video game called “Prom Week”, which apparently simulates “all the social interactions of the event.”
#10 The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave the largest snack food maker in the world (PepsiCo Inc.) a total of 1.3 million dollars in corporate welfare that was used to help build “a Greek yogurt factory in New York.”
#11 The National Science Foundation recently gave researchers at Purdue University $350,000. They used part of that money to help fund a study that discovered that if golfers imagine that a hole is bigger it will help them with their putting.
#12 If you can believe it, $10,000 from the federal government was actually used to purchase talking urinal cakes up in Michigan.
#13 The National Science Foundation recently gave a whopping $697,177 to a New York City-based theater company to produce a musical about climate change.
#14 The National Institutes of Health recently gave $666,905 to a group of researchers that is studying the benefits of watching reruns on television.
#15 The National Science Foundation has given 1.2 million dollars to a team of “scientists” that is spending part of that money on a study that is seeking to determine whether elderly Americans would benefit from playing World of Warcraft or not.
#16 The National Institutes of Health recently gave $548,731 to a team of researchers that concluded that those that drink heavily in their thirties also tend to feel more immature.
#17 The National Science Foundation recently spent $30,000 on a study to determine if “gaydar” actually exists. This is the conclusion that the researchers reached at the end of the study….
“Gaydar is indeed real and… its accuracy is driven by sensitivity to individual facial features”
#18 Back in 2011, the National Institutes of Health spent $592,527 on a study that sought to figure out once and for all why chimpanzees throw poop.
#19 The U.S. government spends more on the military than China, Russia, Japan, India, and the rest of NATO combined. In fact, the United States accounts for 41.0% of all military spending on the planet. China is next with only 8.2%.
#20 In a previous article, I noted that close to 500,000 federal employees now make at least $100,000 a year.
#21 In 2006, only 12 percent of all federal workers made $100,000 or more per year. Now, approximately 22 percent of all federal workers do.
#22 If you can believe it, there are 77,000 federal workers that make more than the governors of their own states do.
#23 During 2010, the average federal employee in the Washington D.C. area received total compensation worth more than $126,000.
#24 The U.S. Department of Defense had just nine civilians earning $170,000 or more back in 2005. When Barack Obama became president, the U.S. Department of Defense had 214 civilians earning $170,000 or more. By June 2010, the U.S. Department of Defense had 994 civilians earning $170,000 or more.
#25 During 2010, compensation for federal employees came to a grand total of approximately 447 billion dollars.
#26 If you can believe it, close to 15,000 retired federal employees are currently collecting federal pensions for life worth at least $100,000 annually. That list includes such names as Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Trent Lott, Dick Gephardt and Dick Cheney.
#27 During 2010, the federal government spent $33,387 on the hair care needs of U.S. Senators.
#28 During 2010, U.S. Senators pulled $72,370 out of the “Senate Restaurant Fund”.
#29 During 2010, an average of $4,005,900 of U.S. taxpayer money was spent on “personal” and “office” expenses per Senator.
#30 In 2013, 3.7 million dollars will be spent to support the lavish lifestyles of former presidents such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
#31 During 2011, the federal government spent a total of 1.4 BILLION dollars just on the Obamas.
#32 When you combine all federal government spending, all state government spending and all local government spending, it comes to approximately 41 percent of U.S. GDP. But don’t worry, all of our politicians insist that this is not socialism.
#33 As I have written about previously, less than 30 percent of all Americans lived in a home where at least one person received financial assistance from the federal government back in 1983. Today, that number is sitting at an all-time high of 49 percent.
#34 Back in 1990, the federal government accounted for just 32 percent of all health care spending in America. This year, it is being projected that the federal government will account for more than 50 percent of all health care spending in the United States.
#35 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.
#36 In one of my previous articles, I discussed how 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.
#37 If you can believe it, 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.
#38 In the United States today, more than 61 million Americans receive some form of Social Security benefits. By 2035, that number is projected to soar to a whopping 91 million.
#39 Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.
#40 When Barack Obama first took office, the U.S. national debt was about 10.6 trillion dollars. Now it is about 16.2 trillion dollars. That is an increase of 5.6 trillion dollars in less than 4 years.
#41 The federal government has now run a budget deficit of more than a trillion dollars for four years in a row.
#42 If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.
#43 If you were alive when Jesus Christ was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.
#44 Some suggest that “taxing the rich” is the answer. Well, if Bill Gates gave every single penny of his entire fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for 15 days.
#45 If the federal government used GAAP accounting standards like publicly traded corporations do, the real federal budget deficit for 2011 would have been 5 trillion dollars instead of 1.3 trillion dollars.
#46 The United States already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain does.
#47 At this point, the United States government is responsible for more than a third of all the government debt in the entire world.
#48 The amount of U.S. government debt held by foreigners is about 5 times larger than it was just a decade ago.
#49 Between 2007 and 2010, U.S. GDP grew by only 4.26%, but the U.S. national debt soared by 61% during that same time period.
#50 The U.S. national debt is now more than 37 times larger than it was when Richard Nixon took us off the gold standard.
#51 The U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.
#52 The U.S. national debt jumped more on the very first day of fiscal year 2013 than it did from 1776 to 1941 combined.
#53 Historically, the interest rate on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has averaged 6.68 percent. If the average interest rate on U.S. government debt rose to that level today, the U.S. government would find itself spending more than a trillion dollars per year just on interest on the national debt.
#54 A recently revised IMF policy paper entitled “An Analysis of U.S. Fiscal and Generational Imbalances: Who Will Pay and How?” projects that U.S. government debt will rise to about 400 percent of GDP by the year 2050.
#55 Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff is warning that the U.S. government is facing a gigantic tsunami of unfunded liabilities in the coming years that we are counting on our children and our grandchildren to pay. 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 federal government is facing a fiscal gap of 222 trillion dollars in the years ahead.
Please share this article with as many people as you can. Time is running out to fix these problems.
Have you noticed that most Americans seem to know far more about American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Justin Bieber and their favorite sports teams than they do about world affairs? Most Americans cannot even find Tunisia and Algeria on a map, and if you told them that food riots are happening in those nations right now most of them would not even care anyway. We have become a very self-centered, self-involved and self-absorbed nation. Quite a few people have accused this column of being obsessed with “doom and gloom”, but the truth is that the world really is falling apart out there. What are we supposed to do? Are we all supposed to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that everything is going to be okay? Should we all not try to warn others so that they can prepare for what is coming? Until people understand that we are facing absolutely massive problems they are not going to be motivated to take significant action, and hopefully those of us that are proclaiming “doom and gloom” are doing a good enough job of describing what is really going on out there that some people are starting to wake up and actually make changes.
Most Americans may not care, but the food riots that are starting to erupt around the globe are actually very serious.
Do you remember what happened back in the summer of 2008?
That summer, the price of oil spiked to an all-time high of $147 a barrel and that caused a substantial increase in the price of food all over the globe. Suddenly millions of poor people couldn’t afford to feed themselves anymore and food riots erupted all over the world.
Well, here we are in 2011 and the price of oil hasn’t even reached $100 a barrel, and yet the food riots are already beginning.
Violent food riots are being reported in Tunisia, in Algeria, in Chile and in Mozambique.
In Tunisia, the riots have been so intense that the President of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has been forced to step down and flee for his life.
Yes, that is how serious things are getting already.
Unfortunately, it looks like the global food situation is only going to get even worse.
Australia is a major food producer and right now they are experiencing flooding of Biblical proportions. In fact, it has been reported that at one point the flooding covered an area greater than France and Germany combined.
In Brazil, another major food producer, horrific flooding has killed more than 500 people so far. This flooding is being called the “worst-ever natural disaster” in the history of Brazil.
Meanwhile, record cold temperatures and record snowfalls are playing havoc with winter crops all over the Northern Hemisphere.
But even before all of these weather disasters struck the price of food had been going up significantly. The UN recently announced that the global price of food hit an all-time high during the month of December, and world leaders all over the globe are openly expressing concern about what 2011 is going to bring.
Sadly, the truth is that there has been a trend of rising food prices for quite some time. According to Forbes, corn is up 94% since June, soybeans are up 51% since June, and wheat is up 80% since last June.
As one of my readers recently pointed out to me, it usually takes about six months for the prices of agricultural futures to filter down into the supermarkets. So the very high prices for agricultural commodities that we are seeing right now should really start to be felt around the globe by the middle of 2011.
In addition to everything else, reports continue to come in of thousands of birds and millions of fish suddenly dying all over the globe, and nobody seems to really know what is causing it.
Do you want some more doom and gloom?
*There are reports of “panic buying” of silver and other precious metals right now.
*Investors are bailing out of municipal bonds at an absolutely staggering rate.
*S&P and Moody’s have both warned once again that the United States is in danger of having its credit rating slashed if it does not get government debt under control.
*U.S. housing prices have now fallen further during this economic downturn than they did during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Meanwhile, America’s economic infrastructure continues to be taken apart piece by piece.
The United States is losing more jobs to China. In fact, the United States is losing more high technology “green jobs” to China.
Evergreen Solar, a company that manufactures solar panels, is closing their factory in Devon, Massachusetts and they are moving their production facilities to China. This is going to result in the loss of 800 good American jobs.
The following is what the company had to say in a statement about the move….
“Solar manufacturers in China have received considerable government and financial support and, together with their low manufacturing costs, have become price leaders within the industry.”
Is it any wonder that a recent survey found that 47 percent of Americans now believe that China is the world’s leading economic power while only 31 percent still believe that the United States is the world’s leading economic power?
As America continues to lose good jobs, millions of Americans find themselves simply unable to pay the bills. In fact, at this point one out of every six Americans is now enrolled in at least one government-run anti-poverty program.
As things have fallen apart in the United States, many private citizens have tried to step forward and do what they can to help people, but now in many areas of the country the government is actually stepping in and shutting down these private avenues of assistance.
For example, in the city of Houston, Texas a couple named Bobby and Amanda Herring has been feeding homeless people for over a year. They never left behind any trash and no trouble was ever caused.
But now the city of Houston is shutting them down.
Because they don’t have a permit.
So will they be able to get a permit? Well, it turns out that city officials are saying that this “Feed a Friend” effort most likely will be denied one.
Apparently the city “officials” believe that the homeless “are the most vulnerable to foodborne illness” and that therefore the warm meals that the Herrings were providing for them were potentially dangerous.
Can you believe this?
This is what happens when political correctness and bureaucracy get wildly out of control.
Now it is illegal to go out and feed homeless people?
What is American turning into?
As the economy continues to fall part, the iron grip of the government is likely only going to get tighter as it desperately tries to keep order.
But do we really need to be giving tickets to 6-year-olds?
Yes, you read that correctly.
According to one recent report, police in Texas have given “1,000 tickets to elementary school children in 10 school districts” over the past six years.
For more examples of how America is turning into a police state, please see my recent article entitled “Almost Everything Is A Crime In America Now: 14 Of The Most Ridiculous Things That Americans Are Being Arrested For“.
America is rapidly becoming a very dark place.
The truth is that there is a reason why so many websites are now reporting so much “doom and gloom”. Things really are getting bad out there.
Sadly, most Americans have only known tremendous prosperity all of their lives, so they can’t even conceive of what it would be like to go through difficult times.
Most Americans have been conditioned to believe that while we may have brief “recessions” once in a while, in the end our economy will always get better and the good times will continue to roll.
But the good news is that an increasing number of Americans are waking up and are trying to warn their family and friends about what is coming.
So do you believe that the food shortages and the food riots are going to get even worse throughout the rest of 2011? Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below….