The Beginning Of The End
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Uh Oh: 90 Percent Of Americans Rate Economic Conditions In The U.S. As “Poor”

Uh oh – are we rapidly reaching another major economic tipping point?  According to a new CNN/ORC International Poll, 90 percent of the American people believe that economic conditions in the United States are “poor”.  This represents a significant increase from when the same question was asked in June.  Back then, 81 percent of the American people considered economic conditions to be “poor”.  To put this in perspective, only 11 percent of Americans rated economic conditions in the U.S. as “poor” back in January of 1999.  The Federal Reserve and the Obama administration keep telling us that we are in the middle of an “economic recovery”, but obviously what average Americans are experiencing on the street is a different story.  Millions of families have been absolutely devastated by mass layoffs, heartless foreclosures or bad debts.  All of the recent polls show that satisfaction with government is at an all-time low and anger at Wall Street and the financial community is rising to dangerous levels.  In the United States today, the economy is the most important issue for most Americans.  When you have 9 out of 10 Americans rating economic conditions as “poor”, that is a very troubling sign.

Many wealthy Americans consider it to be very painful when their investment portfolios go down by a few percentage points, but that is not the kind of economic pain that we are talking about.

The truth is that the vast majority of Americans in the bottom half of society do not even have investment portfolios.

What we are talking about is real economic pain.

As I have written about previously, the average American family is barely making it right now.  Tonight, a whole lot of American families will gather around their kitchen tables and will have some very nervous conversations about things such as making the next mortgage payment or how to pay the heating bill this upcoming winter.

Have you ever been at a point where you work as hard as you can and yet it is still not good enough to provide for your family?

If you have never been completely broke and at the end of your rope financially, then you should not judge the people who are going through it right now.

There are very real reasons why so many Americans are so incredibly depressed about the economy at the moment.

One recent poll found that 80 percent of the American people believe that we are actually in a recession right now.

Things have gotten so bad that Hallmark recently unveiled a 6 card line of “job loss” greeting cards.

Yes, that really is true.

Every month, tens of thousands of American families are still losing their homes to foreclosure, and we are on pace for record low new home sales once again in 2011.

Many families have gotten in debt up to their eyeballs in an effort to stay afloat.  According to a new study conducted by the BlackRock Investment Institute, the ratio of household debt to personal income in the United States is now 154 percent.

In case you are wondering, that is not good.

Our founders intended for us to live in a capitalist system that allows all Americans to have an opportunity to better themselves, but instead what we have developed is a system where the vast majority of the money and the vast majority of the economic power are in the hands of the biggest banks and the biggest corporations.

If you work for the system and you are near the top of the pyramid, life is good.

For nearly everyone else, life is a struggle.

Back in 1980, the top 1% of all income earners in America brought in about 10% of all income.  Today, the top 1% of all income earners bring in about 20% of all income.

If the ranks of the top income earners were populated by a huge number of entrepreneurs and small business owners, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

But instead, the reality is that most of the very wealthy either work in the financial community or they work for the biggest corporations.

True capitalism is supposed to create a very healthy environment for small businesses.

Instead, our current system suffocates them out of existence.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16.6 million Americans were self-employed back in December 2006.  Today, that number has shrunk to 14.5 million.

Our entire system is now tremendously slanted in favor of “the big guy” and against “the little guy”.

Millions of Americans are starting to get sick and tired of all of the economic injustice and the vast corruption that is endemic in our financial system.

As the economy has continued to decline, the anger and the frustration of average of Americans has reached a boiling point.

This is a big reason why we have seen the rise of new political movements in recent years.

First, we saw the Tea Party arise to challenge the establishment in the Republican Party.  But sadly there are already signs that the establishment has taken over the Tea Party to a large extent.

Now, we are seeing the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Large numbers of frustrated Americans are flocking to these protests because they want an outlet for expressing the anger and frustration that they are feeling.  Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of evidence that the Occupy Wall Street movement was started and is being greatly aided by the liberal political establishment in this country.

What the American people need to do is to wake up and break out of the stale two party system.

Unfortunately, the American people have become so “dumbed down” that large chunks of them are absolutely clueless about what is really going on in this country.

For example, according to the new CNN/ORC International Poll mentioned above, 27 percent of Americans have never heard of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and 15 percent of Americans have no opinion about him at all.

Do you understand what that means?

It means that only 58 percent of Americans know enough about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to have an opinion about him.

According to the survey, the way that the 58 percent breaks down is that 28 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Bernanke and 30 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of him.

That is so sad.

Ben Bernanke has more power over our economic problems than anyone else in the country, and yet only 30 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of him.

Nearly as many Americans say that they have never heard of him as say that they do not view him favorably.

How pathetic is that?

That is one of the reasons why I write about the Federal Reserve so much.

We need to get the American people educated.

If the American people get educated, they will feel empowered.

Where there is a lack of knowledge, the people perish.

The other day, a 51-year-old father of three daughters up in Minnesota that had just lost his job locked himself in his car and shot himself in the head in front of some of his former co-workers.

I don’t want to see anymore of that.

We need to give the American people some hope.  We need to explain to them exactly why this economic crisis is happening and what can be done to turn things around.

We also need to reach out to people that are in pain and love them and let them know that there is always hope.

All of us know people out there that are really hurting right now.  Please don’t forget about them.  Please don’t let them quietly slip into depression.  Please don’t let them become the next victims of this economy.

There is always hope.  A reader of this column named “JD” went through all kinds of hell in recent years.  He lost his job, he lost his lady, he stayed in run down motels, he got meals wherever he could and he even slept in his car for a time.  But today he has a new job and his outlook on life is brighter than it has been in ages.

In 1941, Winston Churchill gave a speech during which he uttered the following words: “never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Things may not look good for you right now, but you must never give in.

No matter how bad things are, they can always be turned around.

Yes, the U.S. economy is going to continue to decline if we stay on our current path, but none of us must ever use that as an excuse to give up.

There is always hope.  You just have to keep on fighting.

Record Low New Home Sales In 2011

New home sales in the United States are on pace to set a brand new all-time record low in 2011.  This will be the third year in a row that new home sales have set a new record low.  Sadly, this is yet another sign that the U.S. economy continues to grow weaker.  Back in 2005, more than four times as many new homes were being sold as are being sold today.  The home building industry is one of the central pillars of the U.S. economy, and the fact that we are going to set another new record low for home sales in 2011 is a really bad sign for those hoping for an economic recovery.  Unlike most of those that work in the financial industry, those that build new homes produce something of lasting value for American families.  In addition, millions of Americans have traditionally made a solid living by building and selling new homes.  But today the market for new homes has totally dried up and large numbers of those jobs are disappearing.  Some of the reasons for this include high unemployment, a glut of foreclosures on the market and the tightening of lending standards on home loans.  In order for the U.S. to have anything resembling a healthy economy again, we are going to need a revival in the sale of new homes.

But unfortunately, it looks like things are getting even worse.  In August, the number of new home sales declined for the fourth month in a row.  That is a very troubling sign because typically summer is the best time for new home sales.

Celia Chen, the director of housing economics at Moody’s Analytics, is saying the following about the dismal numbers….

“With job growth at a standstill, the stock market swinging wildly, Congress wrangling over the debt ceiling and the euro zone’s problems sending consumer confidence down, sales of new homes are slipping from an already weak pace.”

When you take a close look at the numbers, it really is shocking to see how far we have fallen.

Back in 1963, the U.S. Census Bureau began monitoring new home sales.  Prior to the most recent economic downturn, the record low for new home sales happened in 1982.

In that year, only 412,000 new homes were sold.

Well, that record was broken in 2009.

Then it was broken again in 2010.

And it will be broken again in 2011.

This year, we are on pace to see only 303,000 new homes sold in America.

That is beyond pathetic.

To get an idea of just how bad that is, just check out the following chart which comes from the Calculated Risk blog.  The first number is the year, the second number is the total number of new homes sold during that year, and the third number is the total number of new homes sold through the month of August during that year.  The number of new homes sold during 2011 is a projected number….

2000:  877  608
2001:  908  644
2002:  973  670
2003:  1,086  759
2004:  1,203  841
2005:  1,283  906
2006:  1,051  756
2007:  776  577
2008:  485  365
2009:  375  261
2010:  323  231
2011:  303  211

As you can see, this will be the fifth year in a row that new home sales have fallen.

And yet the folks on television keep telling us that the recession is over.

The frightening thing is that new home sales are this anemic even with mortgage rates at historic lows.

So what is going to happen once mortgage rates start going up?

It is hard to imagine new home sales getting even worse than they are now.

And we desperately need to get things turned around.  New home construction is very good for the economy.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, each new home that is constructed creates the equivalent of 3 jobs for an entire year and generates approximately $90,000 in taxes.

So what is holding things back?

Well, for one thing, if people do not have good jobs they cannot afford to buy new homes.

Back in 1969, 95 percent of all men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job.  In July, only 81.2 percent of men in that age group had a job.

That is a massive problem that needs to be solved.

Unfortunately, our leaders continue to allow millions of our jobs to be shipped overseas.

If you gathered together all of the people in the United States that are “officially unemployed” right now, they would constitute the 68th largest country in the world.  It would be a nation larger than Greece.

Secondly, there is a gigantic glut of foreclosed homes on the market right now that is competing with new homes for the few qualified home buyers that are out there.

It is absolutely shocking how many vacant homes there are in some areas of the country.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 percent of all homes in the state of Florida are sitting vacant.  That figure is 63 percent larger than it was just ten years ago.

In the city of Detroit alone, there are more than 33,000 abandoned homes.

Until the number of vacant homes goes down, there is just not going to be a need in the marketplace for a lot of new homes.

Sadly, it looks like another huge wave of foreclosures could be on the way.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, at least 8 million Americans are currently at least one month behind on their mortgage payments.

That is more than a bit frightening.

Thirdly, lending standards on home loans have dramatically changed.

Five or six years ago, if you were breathing you could get a home loan.

Even the family dog could get a home loan.

But now the pendulum has swung to the opposite end of the spectrum.

Applying for a mortgage today is like getting a series of proctology exams from a very rude and very uncaring doctor.

Many mortgage lenders today will deny you at the slightest hint of a problem.

Even if you have a very high income, near perfect credit, very little debt and a long history of financial responsibility there is still a very good chance that you will be turned down.

If you don’t believe this, just start talking to people that have applied for home loans lately.

A ton of pending home sales are being cancelled because potential home buyers simply cannot get approved.

Until some sort of “balance” is restored to the mortgage lending process, this is going to continue to be a major problem.

It would be nice if I could tell you that things are going to get better soon, but the truth is that there are all kinds of signs that the U.S. economy is getting even worse and there are all kinds of signs that the global financial system is on the verge of a massive nervous breakdown.

So if you make a living by building or selling new homes, you might want to find other ways to supplement your income for a while.

Things are not going to turn around significantly any time soon.

18 Reasons Why You Can Stick A Fork In The New Home Construction Industry

If you make your living by building or selling new homes in the United States, you might want to consider taking up a different career for a while.  New homes sales in the United States hit yet another new all-time record low in the month of February, and there are a whole lot of reasons why new home sales are going to stay extremely low for an extended period of time.  The massive wave of foreclosures that we have seen has produced a giant glut of unsold homes in the marketplace, mortgage lenders are making it really hard to get approved for home loans, unemployment is still rampant and the global economy looks like it may soon plunge into another major recession.  None of those things is good news for the new home construction industry.  The truth is that we were supposed to have seen new home sales already bounce back by now.  If you look at the historical numbers, new home sales in the U.S. always increased significantly after the end of every recession since World War 2.  But that did not happen this time.  Instead, new home sales have just continued to decline.  This is absolutely unprecedented, and economists are puzzled.  So what is going to happen if the U.S. economy suffers another major downturn?

New home construction has always been one of the foundational pillars of the U.S. economy.  When times were good new home construction would boom, and when times were bad new home construction would falter.

Well, unfortunately the industry is stuck in the midst of a multi-year decline right now.  The reality is that you can stick a fork in the new home construction industry in the United States.  It is toast.  There is going to be no recovery for the foreseeable future.

Not that previously owned homes are doing that much better.  According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of previously existing homes in the United States dropped 9.6 percent in February.  But at least sales of previously owned homes are not at all-time record lows like new home sales are.

As you can see from the facts posted below, new home sales are absolutely abysmal right now, and there are a lot of indications that things may get even worse.  The following are 18 reasons why you can stick a fork in the new home construction industry….

#1 New home sales in the United States set a brand new all-time record low in the month of February.

#2 Only 19,000 new homes were sold in the United States during the month of February. The previous record low for new home sales during the month of February was 27,000, which was set last year.

#3 The “months of supply” of new homes in the U.S. rose from 7.4 months in January to 8.9 months in February.

#4 The median price of a new home in the United States declined almost 14 percent to $202,100 in the month of February.

#5 The median price of a new home in the U.S. is now the lowest it has been since December 2003.

#6 As of the end of 2010, new home sales in the United States had declined for five straight years, and they are expected to be lower once again in 2011.

#7 Now home sales in the United States are now down 80% from the peak in July 2005.

#8 New home construction starts in the United States fell 22.5 percent during the month of February.  This was the largest decline in 27 years.

#9 In February, the number of new building permits (a measure of future home building activity) declined to the lowest level in more than 50 years.  In fact, new building permits were 20 percent lower during February 2011 than they were in February 2010.

#10 There is a major glut of foreclosed homes that still need to be sold off.  David Crowe, the chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, recently told CNN that the constant flow of new foreclosures being put on the market is a huge hindrance to a recovery for new home sales….

“One of the biggest detriments to building new homes is the flow of existing foreclosed homes.”

#11 The number of foreclosures just continues to increase.  This means that those trying to sell new homes are going to continue to be competing against a giant mountain of foreclosed homes for the foreseeable future.  An all-time record of 2.87 million U.S. households received a foreclosure filing in 2010, and that number is expected to be even higher in 2011.

#12 In fact, there are a whole lot of signs that there will be very high levels of foreclosures for years to come.  For example, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, at least 8 million Americans are at least one month behind on their mortgage payments at this point.

#13 A stunningly high number of Americans are “underwater” on their mortgages right now.  This could lead to an increase in the number of “strategic defaults”.  31 percent of the homeowners that responded to a recent Rasmussen Reports survey indicated that they are “underwater” on their mortgages, and Deutsche Bank is projecting that 48 percent of all U.S. mortgages could have negative equity by the end of 2011.

#14 The truth is that the U.S. doesn’t need a whole lot of new housing at the moment.  Right now, 11 percent of all homes in the United States are currently standing empty.

#15 Mortgage lending standards have become extremely tight.  Back during the housing bubble, almost anyone that was breathing could get a zero-down mortgage.  Today, mortgage lenders have made it extremely difficult to acquire a home loan, and it is quite typical these days for lenders to demand down payments of 20 percent or more.  This is dramatically reducing the number of home buyers in the marketplace.

#16 American families cannot buy homes if they do not have good jobs.  Unfortunately, it has become extremely difficult to find a job in the United States today.  This is especially true if you are looking for a good job.  It now takes the average unemployed worker in America about 33 weeks to find a job.

#17 There is not going to be a jobs recovery until the overall economy improves.  Unfortunately, the price of oil continues to rise dramatically and economic disasters all over the planet threaten to plunge the global economy into another major recession.

#18 On top of everything else, perceptions regarding home ownership are shifting in the United States.  In 1996, 89 percent of Americans believed that it was better to own a home than to rent one.  Today that number has fallen to 63 percent.

Even Donald Trump Is Warning That An Economic Collapse Is Coming

In a shocking new interview, Donald Trump has gone farther than he ever has before in discussing a potential economic collapse in America.  Using phrases such as “you’re going to pay $25 for a loaf of bread pretty soon” and “we could end up being another Egypt”, Trump explained to Newsmax that he is incredibly concerned about the direction our economy is headed.  Whatever you may think of Donald Trump on a personal level, it is undeniable that he has been extremely successful in business.  As one of the most prominent businessmen in America, he is absolutely horrified about what is happening to this nation.  In fact, he is so disturbed about the direction that this country is heading that he is seriously considering running for president in 2012.  But whether he decides to run in 2012 or not, what Trump is now saying about the U.S. economy should be a huge wake up call for all of us.

Trump says that the U.S. government is broke, that all of our jobs are being shipped overseas, that other nations are heavily taking advantage of us and that the value of the U.S. dollar is being destroyed.  The following interview with Trump was originally posted on Newsmax and it is really worth watching….

Now, you may or may not think much of Donald Trump as a politician, but when a businessman of his caliber starts using apocalyptic language to describe where the U.S. economy is headed perhaps we should all pay attention.

The following are 12 key quotes that were pulled out of Trump’s new interview along with some facts and statistics that show that what Trump is saying is really happening.

#1 “If oil prices are allowed to inflate and keep inflating, if the dollar keeps going down in value, I think there’s a very distinct possibility that things could get worse.”

Donald Trump is exactly right – we are headed for big trouble if we continue to allow the Federal Reserve to pump hundreds of billions of new dollars into the system.  As I have written about previously, all of this new money will give us the illusion of short-term economic growth and it will pump up the stock market, but in the end all of the inflation the new money is gong to cause is going to be very painful.  Just look at how rapidly M1 has been skyrocketing over the last couple of years.  Is there any way that we are going to be able to avoid paying a very serious price for all of this reckless money printing?….

Already all of this money printing has had a very serious affect on world financial markets.  The price of agricultural commodities is skyrocketing and the price of oil has almost reached $100 a barrel once again.  The last time that the price of oil soared above $100 a barrel was in the early part of 2008, and we all remember the horrific financial collapse that followed in the fall of 2008.

#2 “….you’re going to pay $25 for a loaf of bread pretty soon. Look at what’s happening with our food prices. They’re going through the roof. We could end up being another Egypt. You could have riots in our streets also.”

The price of corn has risen 88 percent over the past year and the price of wheat has soared a whopping 114 percent over the past year.  Let’s hope that we don’t have to pay $25 for a loaf of bread in the United States any time soon, but in some areas of the world that is what it now feels like.

Approximately 3 billion people in the world today live on the equivalent of $2 a day or less, and most of that money ends up getting spent on food.  When food prices go up 10 or 20 percent in deeply impoverished areas of the globe, suddenly the lives of millions are threatened.  The riots that we have seen in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and other nations recently were not entirely caused by rising food prices, but they were certainly a big factor.

#3 “I think gold will go up as long as people don’t have confidence in our president and our country. And they don’t have confidence in our president.”

Investors run to gold and other precious metals when they don’t feel secure.  We saw that happen a lot in 2010.  As confidence in the paper currencies and the financial systems of the world has rapidly diminished, precious metals have become increasingly attractive.

In fact, the price of gold has doubled since the beginning of the economic downturn in 2007.  As the global financial situation continues to become more unstable, the demand for precious metals is likely only going to become more intense.

#4 “The banks have really let us down. Number one, they did some bad things and caused some bad problems. Number two, if you have something that you want to buy, like a house, they’re generally not there for you.”

Banks were given massive bailouts with the understanding that they would open up the vaults and start lending money to average Americans again.

Well, that has not happened.

In particular, it has become much, much harder to get a mortgage in the United States today.  Not that the big banks didn’t need to make changes to their lending practices, but things have gotten so tight now that it is choking the real estate market to death.

#5 “I see $3.50 for a gallon of gas for cars, and cars are lined up trying to get it and it’s $3.50. It’s a shame, a ridiculous shame.”

Our lack of a cohesive energy policy is a national disgrace.  There is no way in the world that a gallon of gas should be $3.50 a gallon.

The U.S. has massive reserves of oil and natural gas that it should be using.  In addition, the lack of progress on developing alternative energy sources in light of our sickening dependence on foreign oil is very puzzling.  We should be very far along towards solving our energy problems by this point.

Meanwhile, we keep pouring billions into the pockets of foreign oil barons every single month.  Unfortunately, Trump was exactly correct in the interview – if something is not done the price of gas is going to keep going higher.

#6 “I think the biggest threat is that our jobs are being stolen by other countries. We’re not going to have any jobs here pretty soon.”

Donal Trump is one of the few prominent leaders that is openly speaking the truth about the predatory economic practices of some of our “trading partners”.  Most of our politicians have just kept endlessly promising us that free trade is “good for us” even as tens of thousands of factories and millions upon millions of jobs have been shipped overseas.

Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.

Yes, computers and robots have replaced a lot of manual labor today, but technology does not account for most of the decline we have seen in manufacturing.

n 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of all U.S. economic output.  In 2008, it represented only 11.5 percent.  Meanwhile, manufacturing in the “developing world” has absolutely exploded.

#7 “We’re like a whipping post for other countries. We are standing there and just being beaten by South Korea, by Mexico, by China, by India.”

Most Americans have absolutely no idea how lopsided many of our “trade agreements” actually are.  Other nations openly manipulate their currencies in order to keep their exports dirt cheap and we allow it.  Other nations openly subsidize their domestic industries that are directly competing with businesses in the United States and we don’t complain.  Other nations make it incredibly difficult for American companies to do business in their countries while we allow foreign corporations to come on in and do pretty much whatever they want here.

Then there are certain nations (such as China) that brazenly rip off trade secrets from foreign corporations time after time after time and never get penalized for it.

Meanwhile, our economy continues to bleed jobs at a staggering pace.  The number of net jobs gained by the U.S. economy during this past decade was smaller than during any other decade since World War 2.

Fortunately, more Americans than ever seem to be waking up and are realizing that globalism is causing many of these problems.  A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted last year discovered that 69 percent of Americans now believe that free trade agreements have cost America jobs.

#8 “All of our jobs are going to China. We’re rebuilding China and other places.”

China is doing great.  China is now the number one producer in the world of wind and solar power.  They now possess the fastest supercomputer on the entire globe.  China also now has the world’s fastest train and the world’s biggest high-speed rail network.

Most Americans don’t realize that China is literally kicking the crap out of us.

Back in 1998, the United States had 25 percent of the world’s high-tech export market and China had just 10 percent. Ten years later, the United States had less than 15 percent and China’s share had soared to 20 percent.

Every single month we buy about 4 times as much stuff from them as they buy from us.  Our trade deficit with China has ballooned to enormous proportions.  In fact, the U.S. trade deficit with China during this past August was more than 4,600 times larger than the U.S. trade deficit with China was for the entire year of 1985.

So when Donald Trump says that we are rebuilding China he is not joking around.

Nobel economist Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago is projecting that the Chinese economy will be three times larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2040 if current trends continue.

Yes, that is how serious things have become.

#9 “We are a laughingstock throughout the world.”

Donald Trump has said on several occasions that his friends and business partners in China just laugh and laugh at us.  They can’t even believe what they are getting away with.

We have become an incompetent giant that is the butt of all the jokes.

According to Stanford University economics professor Ed Lazear, if the U.S. economy and the Chinese economy continue to grow at current rates, the average Chinese citizen will be wealthier than the average American citizen in just 30 years.

Our formerly great industrial cities are slowly becoming ghost towns.  The number of long-term unemployed Americans is at an all-time high.  Tens of millions of Americans can’t even survive without government assistance anymore.  The number of Americans on food stamps set a new all-time record every single month during 2010, and now well over 43 million Americans are enrolled in the program.

We really have become a joke.

#10 “The federal government has no money.”

Unfortunately, our federal government has continued to borrow and spend like there is no tomorrow.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. government will have the biggest budget deficit ever recorded (approximately 1.5 trillion dollars) this year.

So much for fiscal discipline, eh?

It is being projected that the U.S. national debt will increase by $150,000 per U.S. household between 2009 and 2021.

Do you have an extra $150,000 to contribute for your share?

By 2015 our national debt will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 trillion dollars.

It is the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world by far, and it is the gift that we are going to pass down to future generations of Americans.

If there are any future generations of Americans.

#11 “I hate what is happening to this country.”

We should all hate what is happening to this country.  Our economic guts are being ripped out, we are being abused by the rest of the world, America’s infrastructure is being sold off piece by piece, our federal government is drowning in debt, our state governments are drowning in debt and our local governments are drowning in debt.

The only way we can even keep going is to run around to the rest of the world and beg them to keep lending us more money.

The mainstream media keeps proclaiming that we are the greatest economy on earth, but the truth is that we are being transformed into a pathetic loser and our politicians are just standing there with their hands in their pockets letting it happen.

All red-blooded Americans should be horrified by what is happening to this nation.  We have been betrayed by corrupt and incompetent leaders.  As a nation, we have become fat, lazy and stupid.

Hopefully what Donald Trump and others are saying about a coming economic collapse will serve as a huge wake up call and the sleeping giant will arise once again.

If the sleeping giant does not arise, we are in a massive amount of trouble, because right now the road we are on is leading to the biggest economic collapse the world has ever seen.

20 Shocking New Economic Records That Were Set In 2010

2010 was quite a year, wasn’t it?  2010 will be remembered for a lot of things, but for those living in the United States, one of the main things that last year will be remembered for is economic decline.  The number of foreclosure filings set a new record, the number of home repossessions set a new record, the number of bankruptcies went up again, the number of Americans that became so discouraged that they simply quit looking for work reached a new all-time high and the number of Americans on food stamps kept setting a brand new record every single month.  Meanwhile, U.S. government debt reached record highs, state government debt reached record highs and local government debt reached record highs.  What a mess!  In fact, even many of the “good” economic records that were set during 2010 were indications of underlying economic weakness.  For example, the price of gold set an all-time record during 2010, but one of the primary reasons for the increase in the price of gold was that the U.S. dollar was rapidly losing value.  Most Americans had been hoping that 2010 would be the beginning of better times, but unfortunately economic conditions just kept getting worse.

So will things improve in 2011?  That would be nice, but at this point there are not a whole lot of reasons to be optimistic about the economy.  The truth is that we are trapped in a period of long-term economic decline and we are now paying the price for decades of horrible decisions.

Amazingly, many of our politicians and many in the mainstream media have declared that “the recession is over” and that the U.S. economy is steadily improving now.

Well, if anyone tries to tell you that the economy got better in 2010, just show them the statistics below.  That should shut them up for a while.

The following are 20 new economic records that were set during 2010….

#1 An all-time record of 2.87 million U.S. households received a foreclosure filing in 2010.

#2 The number of homes that were actually repossessed reached the 1 million mark for the first time ever during 2010.

#3 The price of gold moved above $1400 an ounce for the first time ever during 2010.

#4 According to the American Bankruptcy Institute, approximately 1.53 million consumer bankruptcy petitions were filed in 2010, which was up 9 percent from 1.41 million in 2009.  This was the highest number of personal bankruptcies we have seen since the U.S. Congress substantially tightened U.S. bankruptcy law several years ago.

#5 At one point during 2010, the average time needed to find a job in the United States had risen to an all-time record of 35.2 weeks.

#6 Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs, which is believed to be a new record low.

#7 The number of Americans working part-time jobs “for economic reasons” was the highest it has been in at least five decades during 2010.

#8 The number of American workers that are so discouraged that they have given up searching for work reached an all-time high near the end of 2010.

#9 Government spending continues to set new all-time records.  In fact, at the moment the U.S. government is spending approximately 6.85 million dollars every single minute.

#10 The number of Americans on food stamps surpassed 43 million by the end of 2010.  This was a new all-time record, and government officials fully expect the number of Americans enrolled in the program to continue to increase throughout 2011.

#11 The number of Americans on Medicaid surpassed 50 million for the first time ever in 2010.

#12 The U.S. Census Bureau originally announced that 43.6 million Americans are now living in poverty and according to them that was the highest number of Americans living in poverty that they had ever recorded in 51 years of record-keeping.  But now the Census Bureau says that they miscalculated and that the real number of poor Americans is actually 47.8 million.

#13 According to the FDIC, 157 banks failed during 2010.  That was the highest number of bank failures that the United States has experienced in any single year during the past decade.

#14 The Federal Reserve brought in a record $80.9 billion in profits during 2010.  They returned $78.4 billion of that to the U.S. Treasury, but the real story is that thanks to the Federal Reserve’s continual debasement of our currency, the U.S. dollar was worth less in 2010 than it ever had been before.

#15 It is projected that the major financial firms on Wall Street will pay out an all-time record of $144 billion in compensation for 2010.

#16 Americans now owe more than $881 billion on student loans, which is a new all-time record.

#17 In July, sales of new homes in the United States declined to the lowest level ever recorded.

#18 According to Zillow, U.S. housing prices have now declined a whopping 26 percent since their peak in June 2006.  Amazingly, this is even farther than house prices fell during the Great Depression.  From 1928 to 1933, U.S. housing prices only fell 25.9 percent.

#19 State and local government debt reached at an all-time record of 22 percent of U.S. GDP during 2010.

#20 The U.S. national debt has surpassed the 14 trillion dollar mark for the first time ever and it is being projected that it will soar well past 15 trillion during 2011.

There are some people that have a hard time really grasping what statistics actually mean.  For people like that, often pictures and charts are much more effective.  Well, that is one reason I like to include pictures and graphs in many of my articles, and below I have posted my favorite chart from this past year.  It shows the growth of the U.S. national debt from 1940 until today.  I honestly don’t know how anyone can look at this chart and still be convinced that our nation is not headed for a complete financial meltdown….

The Big Wall Street Banks Have Found A New Way To Strangle The American People: Predatory Property Tax Collection

It turns out that the big Wall Street banks have found a dirty new way to make loads of cash from U.S. homeowners, and they really, really don’t want to talk about it.  So what is this dirty new business?  America’s biggest financial institutions have become property tax collectors, and it is extremely lucrative.  From coast to coast, the big Wall Street banks are buying up thousands upon thousands of tax liens and are making a killing by socking distressed homeowners with predatory interest, outrageous penalties and almost unbelievable legal fees.  In some areas, the big banks are able to foreclose on these homes in as little as six months.  The elderly and the poor are the most common targets of these practices.  An absolutely brilliant expose in the Huffington Post has brought these issues to light, and it is creating quite a controversy in the financial world.  The big banks are doing nothing illegal here.  Local governments are offering to sell thousands of tax liens and somebody is going to end up buying them.  But something seems extremely unsavory about the big Wall Street banks capitalizing on the economic downturn that they were so instrumental in causing in such a predatory manner. 

Today, millions of American families are barely hanging on to their homes by their fingernails.  Millions are out of work and millions of others are barely making enough to put food on the table.  Meanwhile, property taxes have absolutely soared in most areas of the nation over the past decade.  Many Americans are finding that when that time rolls around they simply do not have a big chunk of extra money to pay a property tax bill. 

So millions of American families, including many that have completely paid off their homes, now find themselves in danger of being thrown out on to the street over an unpaid property tax bill.

For many local governments, the headache of trying to collect on thousands of property tax liens is just too much, so they are glad to “outsource” the work of collection.

So how do the big Wall Street banks get involved?  Well, it goes something like this….

1) The big Wall Street banks set up or invest in shell companies that will disguise who they really are.

2) These shell companies run around and buy up all of the tax liens that they can get their hands on.

3) Predatory levels of interest (in some states as high as 18 percent), fees and penalties rapidly pile up on these unpaid tax liens.  The affected homeowners quickly end up owing much, much more than what the original tax bills were for.    

4) If the collecting firm has to hire a lawyer, then that gets charged to the homeowner as well.  The bloated legal fees for some of these lawyers can end up being the biggest expense of all.

5) If the tax liens do not get paid, the collecting firms move in to foreclose as quickly as legally possible.       

According to the Huffington Post, Wall Street banks such as Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase have been gobbling up several hundred thousand tax liens from local governments.  It appears that “distressed housing markets” are being particularly targeted.

Many of these tax liens are sold in online auctions, so it is unclear if many local government officials even realize who the big money behind many of these shell companies is. 

Once again, this is all perfectly legal, but it is more than a little distasteful.

The following video by the Huffington Post does a good job of summarizing what they found….

The truth is that there is a huge difference between the letter of the law and true justice.

Just consider the following tragic story from the Huffington Post article….

Barbara Carpenter, a 58-year-old disabled Ohio retiree, found herself in such a situation. The former worker for the American Red Cross struggled to save her Toledo home from a JPMorgan entity called Plymouth Park Tax Services, which in recent years has been among the nation’s top buyers of tax liens.

“It’s a great neighborhood and the house is in good condition,”said Carpenter, who paid $67,000 for the one-story home in 2004. But she fell behind in paying her taxes and a certificate for $1,500 in unpaid taxes was sold off to Plymouth Park, which is based in New Jersey.

Carpenter’s lawyer, Joseph Westmeyer, said Plymouth Park routinely charges an upfront fee of around $1,500 as soon as it buys the lien and 18 percent interest on the debt. If they don’t get paid, they foreclose.

“It’s not a good deal for poor customers,” said Westmeyer. Carpenter wound up selling the house in August for less than half what she had paid. Plymouth Park received about $12,000 in legal fees and other charges, including some additional taxes, Westmeyer said, quoting from court records.

Does that sound like an honorable way of making money to you?

Would you like to make your living by throwing elderly women out of their homes and into the street over unpaid tax bills?

Unfortunately, this problem is not going to go away any time soon.  One out of every six Americans is enrolled in a government anti-poverty program.  Tens of millions of Americans are barely hanging in there.  In addition, tens of millions of elderly Americans live on fixed incomes.  Meanwhile, property taxes just continue to go up in many areas of the United States.

Unless the U.S. economy experiences a dramatic turnaround, we are going to continue to see large numbers of Americans get behind on their property taxes, and the big banks will continue to be there to scoop up the tax liens.

Large numbers of poor and elderly Americans that don’t even have a mortgage will lose their homes and it will all be perfectly legal.  Executives at the big banks will be having a good laugh about their huge bonus checks as thousands upon thousands of our most vulnerable citizens are dumped out into the street.

But weren’t the big banks largely responsible for causing the housing crash and the economic meltdown that followed? 

Yes.

But so far none of them is really paying any kind of a price.  The big banks got bailed out by the U.S. government, and now it looks like the Federal Reserve is preparing another round of “backdoor bailouts” to help them out again.

But do the big banks show any mercy on the poor and the elderly who have gotten behind on their property taxes?

Not at all.

This is 2010 – a time when greed dominates the financial world and when most banks don’t seem to know a thing about kindness or mercy.

The Real Horror Story: The U.S. Economic Meltdown

This October, millions of Americans are going to watch horror movies and read horror stories because they enjoy being frightened.  Well, if you really want to be scared, you should just check out the real horror story unfolding right before our eyes – the U.S. economic meltdown.  It seems like more bad news for the U.S. economy comes out almost every single day now.  Unfortunately, things are about to get a whole lot worse.  The mainstream media has been treating “Foreclosuregate” as if it is a minor nuisance, but the truth is that the lid is about to be publicly lifted on years and years of massive fraud in the U.S. mortgage industry, and this thing has the potential to cause economic chaos that is absolutely unprecedented.  Over the past several days, expert after expert has been coming forward and warning that this crisis could completely and totally paralyze the mortgage industry in the United States.  If that happens, it will be essentially like pulling the plug on the U.S. economic recovery. 

Not that there was going to be a recovery anyway.  The truth is that economic statistic after economic statistic has been pointing to incredible trouble for the U.S. economy.

For example, the U.S. government just announced that the U.S. trade deficit went up again in August.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. trade deficit was $46.3 billion during August, which was up significantly from $42.6 billion in July.

So how much coverage did this get in the mainstream media? 

Well, just about none.

We have gotten so used to horrific trade deficits that it isn’t even news anymore.

But these trade deficits are absolutely killing our economy.

How long do you think that the U.S. economy can keep shelling out 40 or 50 billion more dollars than we take in every single month?

If you look at the countries around the world that have become very wealthy, almost all of them have gotten that way by trading with the United States.

Meanwhile, many of our once great manufacturing cities are turning into open sewers.

Every single politician in the United States should be talking about the trade deficit.

But hardly any of them are.

Is it because Americans have all become so dumbed-down that we don’t understand these things anymore, or is it because we are so distracted by the various forms of entertainment that we are addicted to that we just don’t care? 

But the trade deficit is not the only economic statistic that is getting worse.

According to the Department of Labor, for the week ending October 9th the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims was 462,000, which represented an increase of 13,000 from the previous week.

We have an unemployment epidemic going on in this country, but what did the mainstream media do in response to this news?

They yawned.  Instead, many of the “financial experts” were busy talking about how wonderful it is that the Stock Market is going up, up, up.

Well, as one reader recently reminded me, if you want to evaluate an economy by how much the stock market is going up, then the economy of Zimbabwe has had an absolutely wonderful decade!

The truth is that the stock market is not a good barometer for what is actually going on.

What is really happening is that the U.S. economic system is literally coming apart at the seams. 

Yet another piece of really bad economic news that just came out is that the number of home repossessions by banks set a new all-time record during the month of September.  The record total of 102,134 bank repossessions was the first time ever that bank repossessions climbed over the 100,000 mark for a single month.

The good news is that bank repossessions are about to come to a screeching halt.

The bad news is that it is because the U.S. mortgage industry is about to become completely and totally paralyzed by this foreclosure fraud crisis.

The following are three basic points to remember about this foreclosure mess….

A) Massive Fraud Was Committed At Every Stage By The Mortgage Industry

In a previous article entitled “Foreclosure Fraud: 6 Things You Need To Know About The Crisis That Could Potentially Rip The U.S. Economy To Shreds“, I attempted to describe just how widespread the fraud in the mortgage industry has been….

The truth is that there was fraud going on in every segment of the mortgage industry over the past decade.  Predatory lending institutions were aggressively signing consumers up for mortgages that they knew they could never repay.  Many consumers were also committing fraud because a lot of them also knew that they could never possibly repay the mortgages.  These bad mortgages were fraudulently bundled up and securitized, and these securitized financial instruments were fraudulently marketed as solid investments.  Those who certified that these junk securities were “AAA rated” also committed fraud.  Then these securities were traded at lightning speed all over the globe and a ton of mortgage paperwork became “lost” or “missing”.

Finally, when it came time to foreclose on these bad mortgages, a whole lot more fraud was committed.  Thousands upon thousands of foreclosure documents were “robo-signed”, but the truth is that investigators are starting to discover a lot of things about these mortgages that are a lot worse than that. 

B) Nobody Really Knows Who Owns Or Who Has The Right To Foreclose On Millions Upon Millions Of Mortgages

The legal rights to millions of U.S. mortgages has been scrambled so badly that it might actually be impossible to fully sort this mess out.  In particular, MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems) has created a paperwork nightmare that may never be able to be completely remediated. 

On a previous article, a reader named William left a comment that did a great job of describing the very serious problem that we are now facing because of MERS….

MERS – potentially the most serious problem because it affects who really owns the loans. Securitization mandates that loans be transferred into REMIC trusts within a strict timeframe. Late transfers are not allowed. In spite of the supposed “ease” of transfer through MERS, it now appears that perhaps 60% of US loans were never properly transferred. Absent remedial legislation, it is impossible to do so now. And the former owners may be out of business or bankrupt. So how do we get these loans to the trust beneficiaries who were supposed to own them? This is no simple paperwork correction. The train has left the station, with no more to follow.

C) Unprecedented Chaos Is Going To Erupt As Faith In The Mortgage System Completely Dies

So what is going to happen as a result of all of this fraud and confusion in the mortgage industry?  Well, basically everybody is going to sue everybody.  It is going to be absolute mayhem. 

Charles Hugh Smith recently put it this way….

Real estate attorneys can rejoice: everyone will get sued, in every court in the land. Banks will get sued, title insurance companies will get sued, realtors will get sued, foreclosure mills will get sued, MERS will get sued, and so on. The attorneys general of the states will all sue the banks and mortgage mills, claiming billions in damages.

Meanwhile, virtually nobody will want to buy any house that has been foreclosed on in the past ten years or so until this mess is sorted out (which could take years and years). 

Meanwhile, title insurance companies are going to avoid foreclosures like the plague.

Meanwhile, all of the investors that have been propping up the housing market by buying foreclosures are going to be fleeing the market in droves.

Meanwhile, the financial world is going to be trying to figure out which U.S. lending institutions are still solvent.  The value of most mortgage-based assets is now totally up in the air.

Meanwhile, millions more homeowners across the United States will be emboldened to quit making payments on their mortgages as they realize that those holding their mortgages may not have the legal right to foreclose on them.

And that is where the true horror of this entire situation may lie.  What is going to happen if millions upon millions of Americans holding underwater mortgages look at this situation and decide that they really don’t have to be afraid of the threat of foreclosure any longer?

If a massive wave of homeowners suddenly decides to simply quit paying their mortgages, it would basically wipe out nearly the entire mortgage industry.

That would likely mean more government bailouts, more government control, much higher mortgage rates and eventually a serious crash in housing prices.

This crisis is incredibly complicated and it has a ton of moving parts, so it is extremely difficult to describe accurately.  But the reality is that this mess has the potential to hurt the U.S. real estate market much more than “subprime mortgages” ever did.

Hopefully this crisis will not be “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for the U.S. economy, but with each passing day this thing looks even more horrifying. 

One way or another, real estate law in the United State is going to be changed forever as a result of this crisis.  It is going to be extremely interesting to see how all of this plays out.

Foreclosure Fraud: 6 Things You Need To Know About The Crisis That Could Potentially Rip The U.S. Economy To Shreds

The foreclosure fraud crisis seems to escalate with each passing now.  It is being reported that all 50 U.S. states have launched a joint investigation into alleged fraud in the mortgage industry.  This is a huge story that is not going to go away any time soon.  The truth is that it would be hard to understate the amount of fraud that has gone on in the U.S. mortgage industry, and we are watching events unfold that could potentially rip the U.S. economy to shreds.  Many are now referring to this crisis as “Foreclosure-Gate“, and already it is shaping up to be the worst thing that has ever happened to the U.S. mortgage industry.  At this point, it seems inevitable that some financial institutions will go under as a result of this mess.  In fact, by the end of this thing we might see a whole bunch of lending institutions crash and burn.  This crisis is very hard to describe because it is just so darn complicated, but it is worth it to try to dig into this thing and understand what is going on because it has the potential to absolutely decimate the entire U.S. mortgage industry.

The truth is that there was fraud going on in every segment of the mortgage industry over the past decade.  Predatory lending institutions were aggressively signing consumers up for mortgages that they knew they could never repay.  Many consumers were also committing fraud because a lot of them also knew that they could never possibly repay the mortgages.  These bad mortgages were fraudulently bundled up and securitized, and these securitized financial instruments were fraudulently marketed as solid investments.  Those who certified that these junk securities were “AAA rated” also committed fraud.  Then these securities were traded at lightning speed all over the globe and a ton of mortgage paperwork became “lost” or “missing”. 

Then, when it came time to foreclose on these bad mortgages, a whole bunch more fraud started being committed.  The reality is that the “robo-signing” scandal is just the tip of the iceberg.  The following are six things that you should know about how deep this foreclosure fraud crisis really goes….   

#1 According to the Associated Press, financial institutions were hiring just about whoever they could find, including hair stylists and Wal-Mart employees, as “foreclosure experts” to help them rush through the massive backlog of foreclosures that were rapidly piling up.

Apparently many of these “foreclosure experts” barely even knew what a “mortgage” was according to the AP….

In depositions released Tuesday, many of those workers testified that they barely knew what a mortgage was. Some couldn’t define the word “affidavit.” Others didn’t know what a complaint was, or even what was meant by personal property. Most troubling, several said they knew they were lying when they signed the foreclosure affidavits and that they agreed with the defense lawyers’ accusations about document fraud.

#2 There is soon going to be a colossal legal scramble to figure out who actually owns millions of U.S. mortgages.

In his recent article entitled “Invasion Of The Robot Home Snatchers“, Robert Scheer described the complete and total mess that the U.S. mortgage industry has created….

How do you foreclose on a home when you can’t figure out who owns it because the original mortgage is part of a derivatives package that has been sliced and diced so many ways that its legal ownership is often unrecognizable? You cannot get much help from those who signed off on the process because they turn out to be robot signers acting on automatic pilot. Fully 65 million homes in question are tied to a computerized program, the national Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), that is often identified in foreclosure proceedings as the owner of record.

Meanwhile, more organizations are stepping forward to help homeowners fight foreclosures.  National People’s Action, PICO National Network, Industrial Areas Foundation, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations have all partnered with the SEIU to launch the “Where’s The Note” campaign which is going to encourage homeowners to demand to see the note before submitting to a foreclosure.  Campaigns such as this are going to make foreclosures much more costly for banks.

#3 Legal battles over foreclosure documents could soon spawn thousands upon thousands of lawsuits across the United States.

Adam Levitin, a Georgetown University Law professor who specializes in mortgage finance and financial regulatory issues was recently quoted in an article on CNBC as saying the following about the situation we are currently in….

The mortgage is still owed, but there’s going to be a problem figuring out who actually holds the mortgage, and they would be the ones bringing the foreclosure. You have a trust that has been getting payments from borrowers for years that it has no right to receive. So you might see borrowers suing the trusts saying give me my money back, you’re stealing my money. You’re going to then have trusts that don’t have any assets that have been issuing securities that say they’re backed by a whole bunch of assets, and you’re going to have investors suing the trustees for failing to inspect the collateral files, which the trustees say they’re going to do, and you’re going to have trustees suing the securitization sponsors for violating their representations and warrantees about what they were transferring.

#4 The problems with foreclosure paperwork may be more widespread than anyone would have dared to imagine.

Attorney Richard Kessler recently conducted a study in which he found “serious errors” in approximately 75 percent of the court filings related to home repossessions that he examined.  Now he says that the foreclosure crisis could haunt the U.S. mortgage industry for the next ten years….

“Defective documentation has created millions of blighted titles that will plague the nation for the next decade.”

#5 If some banks discover that they are missing the paperwork for large numbers of mortgages (as is currently being alleged), those banks could be forced to significantly revalue those assets (as in “close to zero”) on their balance sheets. 

John Carney of CNBC recently described it this way….

The most damaging thing that could happen to banks would be the discovery that they simply cannot prove they hold a mortgage on a house. In that case, the loan would probably have to be written down to near zero. Even for current loans, the regulatory reserve requirements would double as the loan would no longer be a functional mortgage but an ordinary consumer loan. Depending on the size of the “no docs” portion of the loan portfolio, this might be a minor blip or require a bank to raise new capital to fill the hole in the balance sheet.

#6 Renowned investor Jim Sinclair is actually warning that the collapse of securitized mortgage debt could be the “final shot” that will wipe out many financial institutions across the United States. 

The recent warning that Sinclair posted on his blog is more than a little sobering…. 

I am asking for your attention again because of the depth of the fraud and now the size of the securitized mortgage debt OTC derivative pile of garbage that is in the trillions. This entire mountain of weapons of mass financial and social destruction is now in question. I have been telling you this for more than 2 years since the manufacturers and distributors of this crap were called by the NY Fed due to the loss of control over the paperwork.

I had dinner with my former partner, then lead director of and CEO of Bear Stearns. I could not contain myself so I asked him why he did so much business in OTC derivatives which were certain to bankrupt them. The answer I got was it was more than 50% of their profit. The right answer should have been it was more than 80% of their earnings.

Securitized mortgage debt is going to be the final shot that kills all kinds of financial entities in the Western world. The biggest holder of this putrid junk is pension funds.

Meanwhile, the stock market continues to go up, up, up as if everything is right in the world and as if a juicy new bull market is now upon us.

Well, let’s all join hands and sing happy songs around the campfire.

Perhaps if we all close our eyes and wish real hard all of this foreclosure fraud will just go away.

Then again, maybe not.

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