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The Worst Financial Nightmare In Illinois History Erupts As State Comptroller Declares ‘We Are In Massive Crisis Mode’

Margaret Thatcher once said that the big problem with socialist governments is that “they always run out of other people’s money”, and unfortunately we are witnessing this play out in a major way in the state of Illinois right now.  At this point, the Illinois state government has more than 15 billion dollars of unpaid bills.  Yes, you read that correctly.  They are already 15 billion dollars behind on their bills, and they are on pace to take in 6 billion dollars less than they are scheduled to spend in 2017.  It is the worst financial crisis in the history of Illinois, and State Comptroller Susana Mendoza sounds like she is about ready to tear her hair out in frustration

“I don’t know what part of ‘We are in massive crisis mode’ the General Assembly and the governor don’t understand. This is not a false alarm,” said Mendoza, a Chicago Democrat. “The magic tricks run out after a while, and that’s where we’re at.”

It’s a new low, even for a state that’s seen its financial situation grow increasingly desperate amid a standoff between the Democrat-led Legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Illinois already has $15 billion in overdue bills and the lowest credit rating of any state, and some ratings agencies have warned they will downgrade the rating to “junk” if there’s no budget before the next fiscal year begins July 1.

Would you continue to do work for the Illinois state government if you knew that they were this far behind on their bills and that it is doubtful that you would be paid any time in the foreseeable future?

Of course the answer to that question is quite obvious.  As contractual relationships break down, social services are starting to suffer, and there is not much hope that things will take a turn for the better any time soon.

At this point things have gotten so bad that the Illinois Department of Transportation is planning to cease all roadwork starting on July 1st, and even the Powerball lottery is threatening to cut all ties with the state

As reported previously, the state Transportation Department said it would stop roadwork by July 1 if Illinois entered its third consecutive fiscal year without a budget – the longest such stretch of any US state – while the Powerball lottery said it may be forced to dump Illinois over its lack of budget. For now, state workers have continued to receive pay because of court orders, but school districts, colleges and medical and social service providers are under increasing strain.

So what has caused this unprecedented crisis?

At the core, the problem is political.  A tense standoff between a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature has resulted in the state going 700 days without a budget

On May 31, Illinois will have gone 700 days without a budget, an unprecedented political failure. Also on May 31, if a budget is not passed, it could mean that the state could go until 2019—an unimaginable idea, except that senators have already imagined it.

How does a state, led by a successful businessman as governor, a brilliant political strategist in the House, and a consummate dealmaker in the Senate, end up in this kind of political disorganization? Bad political errors led to bad political incentives, and as the problem worsened, so did the political risk of solutions—and what politicians had to ask of their constituents.

This is another example of how deeply divided we are as a nation right now.  Democrats hate Republicans and Republicans hate Democrats, and it is getting to the point where the two parties cannot work together on even the most basic things.

In the end, the state of Illinois is either going to have to cut spending dramatically, raise taxes substantially or some combination of both.  And since the Democrats have very large majorities in both chambers of the state legislature, I wouldn’t count on spending being cut that much.

This is the thing with big government – it always has a tendency to get even bigger.  And the bigger government gets, the more of our money and the more of our freedom it takes away.

That is why I am a huge advocate of dramatically shrinking the size of government on the federal, state and local levels.  Like Rand Paul has often said, I want a government so small that I can barely see it.

When you let government get out of control, what you end up with is a ravenous beast that has an endless appetite for more of your money.  In Illinois, the money is all gone and the beast is desperately hungry for more.

Sadly, what is happening in Illinois is just the tip of the iceberg.  If stock prices start declining from these massively inflated levels, state pension funds all over America are going to be in crisis mode very rapidly.  And a new recession would greatly accelerate the financial problems of a whole bunch of states that are already dealing with huge budget shortfalls.

Unfortunately, experts all over the country are warning that the next major downturn is coming very quickly.  For example, just consider what Bernard Arnault just told CNBC

A financial crisis could be just around the corner, according to the chief executive of LVMH, who has described the global economic outlook as “scary”.

“For the economic climate, the present situation is…mid-term scary,” Bernard Arnault told CNBC Thursday.

“I don’t think we will be able to globally avoid a crisis when I see the interest rates so low, when I see the amounts of money flowing into the world, when I see the stock prices which are much too high, I think a bubble is building and this bubble, one day, will explode.”

There is always a price to pay for going into too much debt.

A financial day of reckoning can be delayed for a while, but eventually bad financial decisions are going to catch up with you.  The state of Illinois is learning this lesson in a very harsh manner right now, and the country as a whole is on the exact same path as Illinois.

I am often criticized for endlessly warning about America’s coming day of reckoning, but you can’t pile up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world without paying a price.

Just like the state of Illinois, we will pay for decades of exceedingly foolish decisions, and unfortunately this is going to cause severe economic pain throughout our entire society.

This Is The Beginning Of The End For The Euro

The Euro - A Woman Rides The BeastThe long-anticipated collapse of the euro is here. When European Central Bank president Mario Draghi unveiled an open-ended quantitative easing program worth at least 60 billion euros a month on Thursday, stocks soared but the euro plummeted like a rock.  It hit an 11 year low of $1.13, and many analysts believe that it is going much, much lower than this.  The speed at which the euro has been falling in recent months has been absolutely stunning.  Less than a year ago it was hovering near $1.40.  But since that time the crippling economic problems in southern Europe have gone from bad to worse, and no amount of money printing is going to avert the financial nightmare that is slowly unfolding right before our eyes.  Yes, there may be some temporary euphoria for a few days, but it is important to remember that reckless money printing worked for the Weimar Republic for a little while too before it turned into an utter disaster.  Now that the ECB has decided to go this route, it is essentially out of ammunition.  The only thing that it could potentially do beyond this is to print even larger quantities of money.  As the global financial crisis begins to unfold over the next couple of years, the ECB is pretty much going to be powerless to do anything about it.  Over the next couple of months, we can expect the euro to continue to head toward parity with the U.S. dollar, and eventually it is going to go to all-time lows.  Meanwhile, the future of the eurozone itself is very much in doubt.  If it does break up, the elite of Europe will probably try to put it back together in some sort of new configuration, but the damage will already have been done.

Over the next 18 months, the European Central bank will create more than a trillion euros out of thin air and will use that money to buy debt.  The following is how this new QE program for Europe was described by the Telegraph

“The combined monthly purchases of public and private sector securities will amount to €60bn euros,” said Mr Draghi at a press conference following a meeting of the ECB’s governing council.

“They are intended to be carried out until end-September 2016 and will in any case be conducted until we see a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation,” he added, meaning the package will amount to at least €1.1 trillion.

Mr Draghi’s package of asset purchases, including bonds issued by national governments and EU institutions such as the European Commission, is intended to boost the eurozone’s flagging economy and to ward off the spectre of deflation.

When you print more money, you drive down the value of your currency.  And the euro has already been crashing for months as you can see from the chart below…

The Euro Is Collapsing

As I write this, the euro is down to $1.13.  And most analysts seem to agree that it is likely heading even lower.

How low could it ultimately go?

One prominent currency strategist recently told CNBC that he believes that it is actually heading beneath parity with the U.S. dollar…

The euro plunged to an 11-year low on Thursday, after the European Central Bank announced that it would begin a 60-euro monthly asset purchasing program. But it could still have a ways to fall.

Brown Brothers Harriman global head of currency strategy Marc Chandler predicts that the euro, which fell as low as 1.1362 on Thursday after trading near 1.4000 in May, is heading below 1.0. That widely watched level is the point at which it will just take a single U.S. dollar to purchase a euro, a condition known in the currency markets as “parity.”

I totally agree with Chandler.

In fact, I believe that the euro is ultimately going to break the all-time record low against the dollar.

I also believe that the current configuration of the eurozone is eventually going to fall to pieces.  The euro may survive as a currency, but Europe is ultimately going to look a whole lot different than it does right now.

In fact, we could see things start to come apart for the eurozone as soon as Sunday.  If Syriza wins a decisive victory in the upcoming Greek elections, it could create all sorts of chaos

The polls put Alexis Tsipras and Syriza ahead of the ruling New Democracy party of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

Tsipras has vowed to convince the ECB and euro zone to write down the value of their Greek debt holdings to allow him to increase public spending and stimulate job growth.

“There is a good chance they could win, and if they begin moving away from fiscal austerity, other members of the EU are going to say: ‘No more lending, no more life support.’ On Monday morning you’ll know,” De Clue said.

But of course Europe is far from alone.  Financial problems are erupting all over the planet, and central banks are getting desperate.

Over the past week, seven major central banks have made moves to fight deflation.  But the more that they cut interest rates and print money, the less effect that it has.  And eventually, the people of the world are going to seriously lose confidence in these central banks as they realize what a sham the system really is.

I think that these recent words from Marc Faber are very wise…

My belief is that the big surprise this year is that investor confidence in central banks collapses. And when that happens — I can’t short central banks, although I’d really like to, and the only way to short them is to go long gold, silver and platinum,” he said. “That’s the only way. That’s something I will do.”

So what do you think?

Do you agree with Marc Faber?

And what do you think is next for the euro?

Do you agree with me that it is going to record lows?

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

20 Signs That The Global Economic Crisis Is Starting To Catch Fire

Lighting A Match - Photo by Sebastian RitterIf you have been waiting for the “global economic crisis” to begin, just open up your eyes and look around.  I know that most Americans tend to ignore what happens in the rest of the world because they consider it to be “irrelevant” to their daily lives, but the truth is that the massive economic problems that are currently sweeping across Europe, Asia and South America are going to be affecting all of us here in the U.S. very soon.  Sadly, most of the big news organizations in this country seem to be more concerned about the fate of Justin Bieber’s wax statue in Times Square than about the horrible financial nightmare that is gripping emerging markets all over the planet.  After a brief period of relative calm, we are beginning to see signs of global financial instability that are unlike anything that we have witnessed since the financial crisis of 2008.  As you will see below, the problems are not just isolated to a few countries.  This is truly a global phenomenon.

Over the past few years, the Federal Reserve and other global central banks have inflated an unprecedented financial bubble with their reckless money printing.  Much of this “hot money” poured into emerging markets all over the world.  But now that the Federal Reserve has begun “tapering” quantitative easing, investors are taking this as a sign that the party is ending.  Money is being pulled out of emerging markets all over the globe at a staggering pace and this is creating a tremendous amount of financial instability.  In addition, the economic problems that have been steadily growing over the past few years in established economies throughout Europe and Asia just continue to escalate.  The following are 20 signs that the global economic crisis is starting to catch fire…

#1 The unemployment rate in Greece has hit a brand new record high of 28 percent.

#2 The youth unemployment rate in Greece has hit a brand new record high of 64.1 percent.

#3 The percentage of bad loans in Italy is at an all-time record high.

#4 Italian industrial output declined again in December, and the Italian government is on the verge of collapse.

#5 The number of jobseekers in France has risen for 30 of the last 32 months, and at this point it has climbed to a new all-time record high.

#6 The total number of business failures in France in 2013 was even higher than in any year during the last financial crisis.

#7 It is being projected that housing prices in Spain will fall another 10 to 15 percent as their economic depression deepens.

#8 The economic and political turmoil in Turkey is spinning out of control.  The government has resorted to blasting protesters with pepper spray and water cannons in a desperate attempt to restore order.

#9 It is being estimated that the inflation rate in Argentina is now over 40 percent, and the peso is absolutely collapsing.

#10 Gangs of armed bandits are roaming the streets in Venezuela as the economic chaos in that troubled nation continues to escalate.

#11 China appears to be very serious about deleveraging.  The deflationary effects of this are going to be felt all over the planet. The following is an excerpt from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s recent article entitled “World asleep as China tightens deflationary vice“…

China’s Xi Jinping has cast the die. After weighing up the unappetising choice before him for a year, he has picked the lesser of two poisons.

The balance of evidence is that most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong aims to prick China’s $24 trillion credit bubble early in his 10-year term, rather than putting off the day of reckoning for yet another cycle.

This may be well-advised for China, but the rest of the world seems remarkably nonchalant over the implications.

#12 There was a significant debt default by a coal company in China last Friday

A high-yield investment product backed by a loan to a debt-ridden coal company failed to repay investors when it matured last Friday, state media reported on Wednesday, in the latest sign of financial stress in China’s shadow bank sector.

#13 Japan’s Nikkei stock index has already fallen by 14 percent so far in 2014.  That is a massive decline in just a month and a half.

#14 Ukraine continues to fall apart financially

The worsening political and economic circumstances in Ukraine has prompted the Fitch Ratings agency to downgrade Ukrainian debt from B to a pre–default level CCC. This is lower than Greece, and Fitch warns of future financial instability.

#15 The unemployment rate in Australia has risen to the highest level in more than 10 years.

#16 The central bank of India is in a panic over the way that Federal Reserve tapering is effecting their financial system.

#17 The effects of Federal Reserve tapering are also being felt in Thailand

In the wake of the US Federal Reserve tapering, emerging economies with deteriorating macroeconomic figures or visible political instability are being punished by skittish markets. Thailand is drifting towards both these tendencies.

#18 One of Ghana’s most prominent economists says that the economy of Ghana will crash by June if something dramatic is not done.

#19 Yet another banker has mysteriously died during the prime years of his life.  That makes five “suspicious banker deaths” in just the past two weeks alone.

#20 The behavior of the U.S. stock market continues to parallel the behavior of the U.S. stock market in 1929.

Yes, things don’t look good right now, but it is important to keep in mind that this is just the beginning.

This is just the leading edge of the next great financial storm.

The next two years (2014 and 2015) are going to represent a major “turning point” for the global economy.  By the end of 2015, things are going to look far different than they do today.

None of the problems that caused the last financial crisis have been fixed.  Global debt levels have grown by 30 percent since the last financial crisis, and the too big to fail banks in the United States are 37 percent larger than they were back then and their behavior has become even more reckless than before.

As a result, we are going to get to go through another “2008-style crisis”, but I believe that this next wave is going to be even worse than the previous one.

So hold on tight and get ready.  We are going to be in for quite a bumpy ride.

Lighting A Match - Photo by Sebastian Ritter

The Federal Reserve Sends Thank You Letters To Congress For Allowing Them To Destroy Our Economy In Secret

The Federal Reserve continues to pump up this “bubble economy” by recklessly printing money and by setting interest rates artificially low, and the U.S. Congress continues to stand aside and allow them to systematically destroy our economy.  The U.S. Congress could choose to end this madness at any time, but the truth is that Congress won’t even pass a law that would allow the American people to see what is going on over at the Federal Reserve.  Congress has voted down every single bill that would authorize a comprehensive audit of the Federal Reserve.  So the folks over at the Fed will continue to be able to destroy our future in secret.  In fact, back in July Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke actually sent five thank you letters to members of Congress that gave speeches on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives encouraging their fellow lawmakers to vote against the bill to audit the Fed.  Since the U.S. Congress continues to refuse to do anything to hold the Federal Reserve accountable, the Fed will continue to print unprecedented amounts of money, it will continue to set interest rates insanely low and it will continue to pump up the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world.  Unfortunately, all debt bubbles eventually burst, and when this one does it is going to be a financial nightmare unlike anything we have ever seen before.

It was Politico that first broke the story about the thank you letters that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke sent to five members of Congress back in July.  Bernanke acknowledged in the letters that there was never any worry that the “Audit the Fed” bill would actually get through Congress and be signed into law, but he was still extremely grateful that a number of members of Congress got up and publicly denounced the bill….

In July, the Fed chairman sent letters of gratitude to five Democratic members of Congress after they delivered speeches on the House floor urging fellow lawmakers to reject the “Audit the Fed” bill authored by retiring Texas Republican Ron Paul, the central bank’s chief antagonist.

Their efforts failed to defeat the bill, but they were not in vain, at least in Bernanke’s eyes.

“While the outcome of the vote was not in doubt, your willingness to stand up for the independence of the Federal Reserve is greatly appreciated,” Bernanke wrote in the letters, which were obtained by POLITICO through a Freedom of Information Act request.

So who did Bernanke send those letters to?

According to Politico, the thank you letters were delivered to U.S. Representatives Barney Frank, Elijah Cummings, Melvin Watt, Carolyn Maloney and Steny Hoyer.

By refusing to take action against the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Congress is silently endorsing their incredibly foolish policies.

Sadly, most Americans don’t even realize that the Federal Reserve has more control over our economy than anyone else does.  Most Americans that are actually concerned about politics are busy arguing over whether Obama or Romney will be better for the economy when it is actually the Fed that controls the levers of economic power.

Just think about it.

The Federal Reserve played a major role in creating the housing bubble which severely damaged our financial system a few years ago.

As the chart below shows, after 9/11 the Federal Reserve dropped interest rates to historically low levels.  This allowed potential home buyers to get into much larger mortgages, and the big banks (which the Fed supposedly “regulates”) started making home loans to almost anyone with a pulse.

When interest rates started to go back up to normal levels in 2005, many home owners discovered that their adjustable rate mortgages started to become much more painful.  By 2007, we started to see a massive wave of mortgage defaults.  In 2008, the financial system crashed.

In response to the financial crisis of 2008, the Federal Reserve dropped interest rates to record low levels.  The effective federal funds rate is essentially at zero at this point, and the Fed has promised to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels all of the way into 2015.

But didn’t artificially low interest rates cause many of our problems in the first place?  The central planners over at the Fed are convinced that this is the right course for our economy, but can we really live in a zero interest rate bubble indefinitely?  Won’t this eventually cause even greater problems?….

The Fed is also destroying our economy by recklessly printing money.

Once upon a time, the U.S. monetary base rose at a very steady pace.  But since the financial crisis of 2008, Ben Bernanke has been flooding the financial system with money and this has caused an unprecedented explosion in our money supply.

It isn’t too hard to see from this chart what the foolish “quantitative easing” policies of the Federal Reserve have done to our monetary base….

Fortunately a lot of the money from previous rounds of quantitative easing is being stashed by the big banks as “excess reserves” with the Federal Reserve, but when that money starts flowing into the “real economy” (and it will at some point), we are going to have a major problem on our hands.

But more than tripling our monetary base was not enough for Bernanke.  He recently announced yet another round of quantitative easing which he says will last indefinitely.

Basically, Bernanke is taking a sledgehammer to the U.S. dollar.  Our currency is being systematically destroyed, and the U.S. Congress is standing by and doing nothing.

For a lot more on why QE3 is going to be so incredibly destructive for our economy, please see the following five articles….

-“QE3: Helicopter Ben Bernanke Unleashes An All-Out Attack On The U.S. Dollar

-“How QE3 Will Make The Wealthy Even Wealthier While Causing Living Standards To Fall For The Rest Of Us

-“The Federal Reserve Is Systematically Destroying Social Security And The Retirement Plans Of Millions Of Americans

-“QE4? The Big Wall Street Banks Are Already Complaining That QE3 Is Not Enough

-“Quantitative Easing Did Not Work For The Weimar Republic Either

The Federal Reserve seems to think that printing more money is always the solution to whatever economic problems we are having.

But of course the Fed has been debasing our currency from the very beginning.  The entire Federal Reserve system is designed to create inflation.

From the time that the Federal Reserve was created back in 1913, the purchasing power of a U.S. dollar has declined from $1.00 to only about 4 pennies today.

And now Bernanke seems bound and determined to wipe out those last 4 pennies.

The Federal Reserve system was also designed to create a never ending spiral of government debt.

Sadly, most Americans simply have no idea where money comes from.  Most Americans have no idea that money that the Federal Reserve zaps into existence out of thin air is loaned to the U.S. government at interest.  Most Americans have no idea that the primary reason why we are 16 trillion dollars in debt is because this is what the system was designed to do to us.

Today, the U.S. national debt is more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was originally created in 1913.  This did not happen by accident….

Not that our politicians should be off the hook for this.  They have been spending money as if there is no tomorrow.  Most of them have shown no concern at all about the legacy of debt that they are passing on to future generations of Americans.

If our politicians had been more responsible, the national debt would still be there, but it would be at a much more manageable level.

If we ever want to totally get rid of our national debt, the Federal Reserve must be abolished.

There is no other way.

And government debt is not the only bubble that the Federal Reserve has pumped up.

The following is a chart that shows the growth of all forms of debt (government, business, consumer, etc.) in the United States.  The total amount of debt in the United States has grown from less than $2 trillion to more than $55 trillion over the past 40 years….

How in the world could we have been so foolish?

How in the world did we allow the total amount of debt in our country to get more than 27 times larger over the past 40 years?

As you can see, there was a slight “hiccup” in the bubble as a result of the financial crisis of 2008, but now it has started growing again.

At this point our entire financial system is based on debt, and if the debt bubble does not continue to expand the entire thing will collapse.

But no financial bubble grows forever.  History has proven that to us over and over.

At some point this bubble is going to burst.

When it does, we will either experience a deflationary collapse or a hyperinflationary collapse depending on how “the powers that be” respond to what is happening.

History has shown us that financial collapse is often accompanied by social upheaval.   Many times it even leads to war.

So what will happen to America when our economic collapse happens?

That is a very good question.

How would you answer it?

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