The Real Economic Numbers: 21.5 Percent Unemployment, 10 Percent Inflation And Negative Economic Growth

Every time the mainstream media touts some “wonderful new economic numbers” I just want to cringe.  Yes, it is true that the economic numbers have gotten slightly better since Donald Trump entered the White House, but the rosy economic picture that the mainstream media is constantly painting for all of us is completely absurd.  As you are about to see, if honest numbers were being used all of our major economic numbers would be absolutely terrible.  Of course we can hope for a major economic turnaround for America under Donald Trump, but we certainly are not there yet.  Economist John Williams of shadowstats.com has been tracking what our key economic numbers would look like if honest numbers were being used for many years, and he has gained a sterling reputation for being accurate.  And according to him, it looks like the U.S. economy has been in a recession and/or depression for a very long time.

Let’s start by talking about unemployment.  We are being told that the unemployment rate in the United States is currently “3.8 percent”, which would be the lowest that it has been “in nearly 50 years”.

To support this claim, the mainstream media endlessly runs articles declaring how wonderful everything is.  For example, the following is from a recent New York Times article entitled “We Ran Out of Words to Describe How Good the Jobs Numbers Are”

The real question in analyzing the May jobs numbers released Friday is whether there are enough synonyms for “good” in an online thesaurus to describe them adequately.

So, for example, “splendid” and “excellent” fit the bill. Those are the kinds of terms that are appropriate when the United States economy adds 223,000 jobs in a month, despite being nine years into an expansion, and when the unemployment rate falls to 3.8 percent, a new 18-year low.

Doesn’t that sound great?

It would be great, if the numbers that they were using were honest.

The truth, of course, is that the percentage of the population that is employed has barely budged since the depths of the last recession.  According to John Williams, if honest numbers were being used the unemployment rate would actually be 21.5 percent today.

So what is the reason for the gaping disparity?

As I have explained repeatedly, the government has simply been moving people from the “officially unemployed” category to the “not in the labor force” category for many, many years.

If we use the government’s own numbers, there are nearly 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.  That is higher than it was at any point during the last recession.

We are being conned.  I have a friend down in south Idaho that is a highly trained software engineer that has been out of work for two years.

If the unemployment rate is really “3.8 percent”, why can’t he find a decent job?

By the way, if you live in the Boise area and you know of an opening for a quality software engineer, please let me know and I will get the information to him.

Next, let’s talk about inflation.

According to Williams, the way inflation has been calculated in this country has been repeatedly changed over the decades

Williams argues that U.S. statistical agencies overestimate GDP data by underestimating the inflation deflator they use in the calculation.

Manipulating the inflation rate, Williams argues in Public Comment on Inflation Measurement , also enables the US government to pay out pensioners less than they were promised, by fudging cost of living adjustments.

This manipulation has ironically taken place quite openly over decades, as successive Republican and Democratic administrations made “improvements” in the way they calculated the data.

If inflation was still calculated the way that it was in 1990, the inflation rate would be 6 percent today instead of about 3 percent.

And if inflation was still calculated the way that it was in 1980, the inflation rate would be about 10 percent today.

Doesn’t that “feel” more accurate to you?  We have all seen how prices for housing, food and health care have soared in recent years.  After examining what has happened in your own life, do you believe that the official inflation rates of “2 percent” and “3 percent” that we have been given in recent years are anywhere near accurate?

Because inflation is massively understated, that has a tremendous effect on our GDP numbers as well.

If accurate inflation numbers were being used, we would still be in a recession right now.

In fact, John Williams insists that we would still be in a recession that started back in 2004.

And without a doubt, a whole host of other more independent indicators point in that direction too.  The following comes from an excellent piece by Peter Diekmeyer

Williams’ findings, while controversial, corroborate a variety of other data points. Median wage gains have been stagnant for decades. The U.S. labour force participation rate remains at multi-decade lows. Even our own light-hearted Big Mac deflator suggests that the U.S. economy is in a depression.

Another clue is to evaluate the U.S. economy just as economists would a third world nation whose data they don’t trust. They do this by resorting to figures that are hard to fudge.

There, too, by a variety of measures—ranging from petroleum consumption to consumer goods production to the Cass Freight Index—the U.S. economy appears to have not grown much, if at all, since the turn of the millennium.

In the end, all that any of us really need to do is to just open our eyes and look at what is happening all around us.  We are on pace for the worst year for retail store closings in American history, and this “retail apocalypse” is hitting rural areas harder than anywhere else

This city’s Target store is gone.

So is Kmart, MC Sports, JCPenney, Vanity and soon Herberger’s, a department store.

“The mall is pretty sad,” says Amanda Cain, a teacher and mother. “Once Herberger’s closes, we’ll have no anchors.”

About two-thirds of Ottumwa’s Quincy Place Mall will be empty with Herberger’s loss.

Of course it isn’t just the U.S. economy that is troubled either.

We are living in the terminal phase of the greatest debt bubble in global history, many nations around the globe are already experiencing a very deep economic downturn, and our planet is literally in the process of dying.

So please don’t believe the hype.

Yes, we definitely hope that things will get better, but the truth is that things have not been “good” for the U.S. economy for a very, very long time.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

When They Shall Say “Peace And Safety”: Polls Show Americans Are The Most Optimistic They Have Been In A Very Long Time

By a very wide margin, this is the most optimistic that Americans have been about the future since I started The Economic Collapse Blog in late 2009.  Even though the middle class is shrinking, 102 million working age Americans do not have a job, and we are now 21 trillion dollars in debt, most people are feeling really good about things right now.  Especially among Republicans, there is an overwhelming consensus that the United States is starting to head in the right direction and that better times are ahead.  As a result, so many of the exact same people that were “prepping” while Barack Obama was in the White House are now partying now that Donald Trump is president.  But none of the long-term trends that are systematically destroying our nation have been significantly altered, and none of our long-term problems have been solved.  We are still steamrolling down a path toward national suicide, but most Americans simply do not care.

What Americans do care about is that it seems to be easier to find a job at the moment than it has in a very long time.  In fact, the percentage of Americans that believe that it is “a good time to find a quality job” is at the highest level that Gallup has ever recorded

Sixty-seven percent of Americans believe that now is a good time to find a quality job in the U.S., the highest percentage in 17 years of Gallup polling. Optimism about the availability of good jobs has grown by 25 percentage points since Donald Trump was elected president.

Gallup has asked Americans to say whether it is a good time or bad time to find a quality job monthly since August 2001. Prior to 2017, the percentage saying “good time” never reached 50%, but since Trump took office in January that year, the percentage has stayed at or above 50% and has been higher than 60% in eight of the past nine months.

A Rasmussen survey that asked a similar question came up with very similar results.

Of course the reality of the matter is that 66 percent of all jobs in the United States pay less than 20 dollars an hour, and 78 million Americans are participating in the “gig economy” because they need to supplement their normal incomes in order to make ends meet.

But perception is sometimes more powerful than reality, and right now the perception is that the U.S. economy is doing well

“Nothing is better for the issues about trade wars or issues about G-7 than a good economy,” Omar Aguilar, chief investment officer for equities at Charles Schwab Investment Management, said by phone. “The jobs report on Friday gave a lot of people confidence that the U.S. economy is still pretty solid.”

Small businesses in the United States are also feeling extremely optimistic right now.

In fact, one survey found that small business optimism has surged to record highs

The Q2 MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index (Index) released today recorded an overall score of 68.7, up 2.4 points from the Q1 score of 66.3, driven in part by the strongest local economic outlook on record, a firmer hiring environment, and a stronger backdrop for investing. Two out of every three small business owners are optimistic about their company and the small business environment in the United States.

That is definitely a good sign, because we desperately need small businesses to do well, but is all of this optimism really warranted?

The financial markets continue to be filled with optimism as well.  Despite the outbreak of an international trade war and tremendous turmoil over in Europe, the Nasdaq closed at a brand new record high on Tuesday.

In recent years stock prices have just continued to go up and up and up no matter what news breaks, and now we are facing the greatest stock market bubble in our history.

How long do we have until it finally bursts?

There is a lot of optimism in the housing market as well.  At this point, a staggering 64 percent of all adults in this country believe that housing prices will continue to go up over the next year.  The following comes from Marketwatch

A majority of U.S. adults (64%) continue to believe home prices in their local area will increase over the next year, a recent survey released by polling firm Gallup concluded. That’s up nine percentage points over the past two years and is the highest percentage since before the housing market crash and Great Recession in the mid-2000s.

The level of optimism is edging closer to the 70% of adults in 2005 who said prices would continue rising. That, of course, was less than one year before the peak of the housing market bubble in early 2006, which was largely fueled by a wave of subprime lending.

Moving beyond short-term concerns, Americans are also becoming increasingly optimistic about the long-term future too.  A recent Gallup survey discovered that approximately 60 percent of all Americans believe that our young people “will have a better life than their parents did”…

About six in 10 Americans say it is very or somewhat likely that today’s young people will have a better life than their parents did. The latest reading marks continued improvement since the low of 44% in 2011 but is still not back to the level of 66% measured in February 2008.

Hopefully the optimists will be correct, but I do not believe they will be.  If we keep doing the same things that we have been doing as a nation, it is simply not possible that there will be any sort of a bright future for America.

And I will tell you one area where Americans are quite pessimistic.  One recent survey found that 77 percent of all Americans believe that morality is in decline in this country.  Our national character continues to deteriorate at a frightening pace, and most Americans appear to be quite aware that this is happening.

But instead of changing our ways, we proudly believe that our “greatness” will allow us to continue to enjoy a massively inflated debt-fueled standard of living for a very long time to come.

Unfortunately for us, it simply does not work that way, and as a nation we are way overdue for a very serious wake up call.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

 

15 Signs That The Middle Class In The United States Is Being Systematically Destroyed

If your family is really struggling right now, you are far from alone.  I have been publishing The Economic Collapse Blog for more than eight years, and all throughout that time I have seen the middle class in America get smaller and smaller and smaller.  It is almost as if we are all playing a really bizarre game of musical chairs and every month someone pulls a few more chairs from the game.  Yes, there are some people that have gotten exceedingly wealthy over the past eight years, and most of that wealth is concentrated in places such as New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco.  But meanwhile, most of the rest of the country has been steadily getting poorer.  Just take a look at Detroit – at one time it had the highest per capita income in the entire nation and now it is a rotting, decaying war zone.  Of course dozens of other formerly great manufacturing cities all over the nation have suffered a similar fate.  Since 2001, we have lost more than 70,000 manufacturing facilities and millions of good paying manufacturing jobs.  Those good paying jobs have been replaced by lower paying “service jobs”, and you can’t support a middle class lifestyle on those types of jobs.

In order to have a thriving middle class, you need middle class jobs, and our country is in desperate need of more of those jobs.  At this point most American families are living on the edge, and more are falling into poverty with each passing month.  The following are 15 signs that the middle class in the United States is being systematically destroyed…

#1 78 million Americans are participating in the “gig economy” because full-time jobs just don’t pay enough to make ends meet these days.

#2 In 2011, the average home price was 3.56 times the average yearly salary in the United States.  But by the time 2017 was finished, the average home price was 4.73 times the average yearly salary in the United States.

#3 In 1980, the average American worker’s debt was 1.96 times larger than his or her monthly salary.  Today, that number has ballooned to 5.00.

#4 In the United States today, 66 percent of all jobs pay less than 20 dollars an hour.

#5 102 million working age Americans do not have a job right now.  That number is higher than it was at any point during the last recession.

#6 Earnings for low-skill jobs have stayed very flat for the last 40 years.

#7 Americans have been spending more money than they make for 28 months in a row.

#8 In the United States today, the average young adult with student loan debt has a negative net worth.

#9 At this point, the average American household is nearly $140,000 in debt.

#10 Poverty rates in U.S. suburbs “have increased by 50 percent since 1990”.

#11 Almost 51 million U.S. households “can’t afford basics like rent and food”.

#12 The bottom 40 percent of all U.S. households bring home just 11.4 percent of all income.

#13 According to the Federal Reserve, 4 out of 10 Americans do not have enough money to cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing the money or selling something they own.

#14 22 percent of all Americans cannot pay all of their bills in a typical month.

#15 Today, U.S. households are collectively 13.15 trillion dollars in debt.  That is a new all-time record.

When you think of “poverty in America”, you probably think of our blighted inner cities, but that is not where poverty is growing the fastest.

According to author Scott Allard, it is actually our suburbs where poverty is growing more rapidly than anywhere else…

According to a May report from the Pew Research Center, since 2000, suburban counties have experienced sharper increases in poverty than urban or rural counties.

This is consistent with research across the U.S. over the past decade – as well as my own book, “Places in Need.”

This is why tens of millions of square feet of retail space is being closed down and why formerly great shopping malls all over America now resemble ghost towns.

When I was growing up, the shopping mall was the place to be for average middle class kids.  My family was middle class and virtually everyone that I knew was middle class.  In fact, I don’t remember any really wealthy or really poor kids in my school at all.

But today most families have little to no financial cushion and are deep in debt.  As a result, discretionary income has really dried up and that means less shopping.

So we are on pace for the worst year for store closings in American history, and yet the mainstream media keeps telling us that the economy is in “good shape”.

That is a load of nonsense.  The numbers don’t lie, and the U.S. economy is never going to be in “good shape” until the middle class starts growing again.

Is there a solution?

Well, the mayor of Stockton, California seems convinced that the solution is just to give people free money.  The following comes from Reuters

Michael Tubbs, the 27-year-old mayor of Stockton, California, has a radical plan to combat poverty in his cash-strapped city: a “no strings” guaranteed basic income of $500 a month for its residents.

Starting in early 2019, Tubbs plans to provide the monthly stipend to a select group of residents as part of a privately funded 18-month experiment to assess how people use the money.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all just started getting big, fat checks from the government every month?

Why didn’t somebody think about this before?

Of course the truth is that we simply cannot afford to do that.  State and local government debt levels have surged to record highs, and the federal government is now 21 trillion dollars in debt.  We are on a path that leads to national suicide, and we desperately need to start living within our means.

We have been consuming far more wealth than we have been producing for a very long time, but we have been doing it for so long that many of us now think that this is “normal”.  Meanwhile, our long-term debt problems continue to escalate and our once thriving middle class continues to shrink.

If we continue to do the same things, we will continue to get the same results, and right now we are in the process of absolutely destroying the greatest economic machine that the world has ever seen.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

The Truth About The Employment Numbers – Nearly 102 Million Working Age Americans Do Not Have A Job Right Now

Don’t get too excited about the “good employment numbers” that you are hearing about from the mainstream media.  The truth is that they actually aren’t very good at all.  For years, the federal government has been taking numbers out of one category and putting them into another category and calling it “progress”, and in this article we will break down exactly what has been happening.  We are being told that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to “3.8 percent”, which is supposedly the lowest that it has been “in nearly 50 years”.  If these were honest numbers that would be great news.  But these are not honest numbers…

Let’s take this one step at a time, and we are going to use the Federal Reserve’s own numbers.

According to the Fed, there were 6,065,000 working age Americans unemployed in May.

That would be an excellent number if it was an honest number.  But of course that number does not tell the whole story.

We also have to factor in the other category of working age Americans that are not currently employed.  They are not considered to be “officially unemployed” because they are considered to be “not in the labor force”.

According to the Federal Reserve, 95,915,000 working age Americans were “not in the labor force” in May.

That is an all-time record high, and this is how the federal government has been making the employment numbers look so good.  The number of Americans that are “officially unemployed” keeps going down, and the number of Americans “not in the labor force” keeps going up.

When you add 6,065,000 and 95,915,000 together, you come up with a grand total of 101,980,000 working age Americans that do not have a job right now.

So we essentially have 102 million working age Americans that are not employed, and that is the same level that we had four years ago.

And back during the peak of the last recession, the number of working age Americans without a job never surpassed the 100 million mark.

That means that there are more working age Americans without a job right now than there was at any point during the last recession.

All of those economic optimists out there should chew on that number for a while.

According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, if honest numbers were being used our unemployment rate would be somewhere around 21 percent at the moment.  That is a slight improvement from the 22 percent level that we were at not too long ago, but it is not nearly good enough.

So please don’t try to convince me that the U.S. economy is “doing well” until we can get the number of working age Americans without a job under 100 million.

Meanwhile, Americans continue to spend far more money than they are making. In fact, Americans have now been spending more than they are making for 28 months in a row.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

For the 28th month in a row, YoY growth in spending has outpaced incomes, sending the savings rate back down to just 2.8, the lowest since the debt-funded holiday spending spree of December 2017, and just shy of record lows.

Spending YoY is the highest since April 2017:

Adjusted for inflation, real consumption rose 0.4%, double the median projection of 0.2%. The Commerce Department said spending for gasoline and other energy goods, as well as household utilities, were leading contributors to the monthly increase in real outlays. Real durable goods spending, rose 0.3% after a 1.9% increase in the prior month; nondurable goods advanced 0.4% for a second month. Outlays on services, adjusted for inflation, rose 0.4% after a 0.3% gain in prior month.

Obviously this is not sustainable.

And in the final analysis, there is really nothing sustainable about our current economic situation.  We are in the terminal phase of the greatest debt bubble that humanity has ever seen, and there are an increasing number of indications that the party is about to come to a very abrupt end.

We have never recovered from the last recession, and all of our long-term financial imbalances have continued to get even worse.  For the moment, much of the country is enjoying a debt-fueled standard of living that they do not deserve, and most of them have absolutely no idea that there is no way that this state of affairs can continue for much longer.

As individuals, we simply cannot consume far more than we produce indefinitely, and the same thing is true for our nation as a whole.

Time is running out, but most Americans are completely oblivious to this very simple basic fact.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Economic Slowdown Confirmed: The U.S. Economy Lost Jobs Last Month For The First Time In 7 Years

Don’t worry – even though the employment numbers are terrible the mainstream media insists that everything is going to be wonderful for the U.S. economy in the months ahead.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy lost 33,000 jobs during September.  That was the first monthly decline in seven years, and as you will see below, overall 2017 is on pace for the slowest employment growth in at least five years.  But the Bureau of Labor Statistics insists that the downturn in September was due to the chaos caused by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, and they are assuring us that happier times are right around the corner.

Economists were projecting that we would see an increase of around 80,000 jobs last month, and we need to add at least 150,000 jobs each month just to keep up with population growth.  So the -33,000 number was a huge disappointment.

But even though we lost 33,000 jobs last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the unemployment rate fell from 4.4 percent to 4.2 percent.

Yes, I know that doesn’t make any sense at all, but that is what they are telling us.

Perhaps if several volcanoes go off inside this country, terrorists detonate a dirty bomb in one of our major cities and Godzilla invades the west coast next month the unemployment rate will drop all the way to zero.

Of course I am being facetious, but I just want to point out the absurdity of what we are being told.  There is no way in the world that the official unemployment rate should be at “a new 16-year low”.

In the end, perhaps September will end up being a bit of an anomaly.  But as I mentioned above, we have been witnessing a broader trend build for months.  According to CNBC, we are on pace for “the slowest jobs growth in at least five years”…

In addition to September’s rough month, the July number was revised lower from 189,000 to 138,000 though August got a bump higher from 156,000. In all, though, 2017 thus far has seen the slowest jobs growth in at least five years.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Employment is not booming.  In fact, things haven’t been this slow “in at least five years”.  An economic slowdown is here, and yet most people are totally oblivious to what is happening.

And let me share something else with you.  The following chart shows the average duration of unemployment since the late 1940s…

This chart shows that workers remain unemployed far longer than they did in the “good old days”, but I want you to pay special attention to the very end of the chart.

The duration of unemployment is really starting to spike up again quite dramatically, and that is a very, very troubling sign for the U.S. economy overall, because spikes in this number almost always correspond with recessions.

But the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that we don’t have anything to be concerned about.  In fact, they are blaming all of the bad numbers from last month on Harvey and Irma

Our analysis suggests that the net effect of these hurricanes was to reduce the estimate of total nonfarm payroll employment for September. There was no discernible effect on the national unemployment rate. No changes were made to either the establishment or household survey estimation procedures for the September figures. For both surveys, collection rates generally were within normal ranges, both nationally and in the affected states. In the establishment survey, employees who are not paid for the pay period that includes the 12th of the month are not counted as employed. In the household survey, persons with a job are counted as employed even if they miss work for the entire survey reference week (the week including the 12th of the month), regardless of whether or not they are paid. For both surveys, national estimates do not include Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

And the “experts” that are being quoted by the mainstream media are assuring us that “the labor market remains in good shape”

“Despite the decline (in job gains), it’s really clear that the labor market remains in good shape,” says Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors.

The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a different survey than the headline job totals, edged lower. That’s because gains in the number of people employed outpaced an increase in the labor force, which includes people working and looking for jobs. In that survey of households, workers are counted as employed even if they were temporarily idled by the storms.

Hopefully they are right.

Hopefully happy times are here again and an economic boom is right around the corner.

Unfortunately, the longer term trends tell an entirely different story.  Our economic infrastructure has been gutted, we have shipped millions of good paying jobs overseas, the middle class is slowly being eradicated, and we are living in the terminal phase of the greatest debt bubble in human history.

We have been able to maintain our ridiculously inflated standard of living for an extended period of time by borrowing absolutely colossal mountains of money year after year.  But no debt bubble lasts forever, and this one will not either.

The debt-fueled “prosperity” that we see all around us today is an enormous temporary illusion, and when the illusion collapses the economic pain is going to be greater than anything we have ever seen before in modern American history.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

They Are Killing Small Business: The Number Of Self-Employed Americans Is Lower Than It Was In 1990

After eight long, bitter years under Obama, will things go better for entrepreneurs and small businesses now that Donald Trump is in the White House?  Once upon a time, America was the best place in the world for those that wanted to work for themselves.  Our free market capitalist system created an environment in which entrepreneurs and small businesses greatly thrived, but today they are being absolutely eviscerated by the control freak bureaucrats that dominate our political system.  Year after year, leftist politicians just keep piling on more rules, more regulations, more red tape and more taxes.  As a result, the number of self-employed Americans is now lower than it was in 1990

In April 1990, 8.7 million Americans were self-employed, but today only 8.4 million Americans are self-employed.

Of course our population has grown much, much larger since that time.  In 1990, there were 249 million people living in the United States, but today there are 321 million people living in this country.

What this means is that the percentage of the population that is self-employed is way down.

In fact, one study found that the percentage of Americans that are self-employed fell by more than 20 percent between 1991 and 2010.

And if you go back even farther, the numbers are even more depressing.  It may be hard to believe, but the percentage of “new entrepreneurs and business owners” declined by a staggering 53 percent between 1977 and 2010.

Sometimes I like to watch a television show called Shark Tank, and on that show they make it seem like entrepreneurship in America is thriving.

But the exact opposite is actually the case.  In a previous article, I discussed how the number of new businesses being created in the United States has been steadily falling over the years.  According to economist Tim Kane, the number of startup jobs per one thousand Americans has been declining for several consecutive presidential administrations

Bush Sr.: 11.3

Clinton: 11.2

Bush Jr.: 10.8

Obama: 7.8

So why is this happening?

As I mentioned at the top of this article, self-employed Americans are being absolutely strangled by oppressive rules, regulations and taxes.

To illustrate this point, I would like to share with you some quotes from an open letter that was authored by a small business owner named Don Chernoff…

#1 I work for myself and have to pay my own medical expenses. Before the “affordable care act” I was paying about $200 per month for a high deductible policy. It was far from perfect but it got so much worse under the “Affordable” care act.

I now pay over $400 a month, my deductible went from $5,000 to over $6,000 and my out of pocket costs for care have skyrocketed.

#2 I have to spend dozens of hours and thousands of dollars for a tax accountant each spring to prepare my taxes because I cannot possibly understand how to do it myself, and I have a master’s degree in engineering.

#3 Many years ago when I quit a perfectly good job to start my own small business, I was shocked to learn that I had to pay both my share and what had been my employer’s share of Social Security.

#4 Between state, federal and local taxes you’ve probably paid 50% or more of your income in taxes, but that’s not enough for politicians.

If you’ve been lucky enough to have created a business you can sell, now you’ll get to enjoy paying another tax on the capital gain from the sale.

This is another reason why we need a conservative revolution in Washington.  We should demand that our members of Congress lower tax rates dramatically, completely eliminate the self-employment tax, greatly simplify the tax code and get rid of as many regulations on small business owners as possible.

In fact, if it was up to me I would abolish a number of federal agencies completely.

What we are doing right now is not working.  Small businesses have traditionally been one of the main engines of economic growth in this country, but thanks to the left they are unable to play that role at the moment.

It isn’t an accident that over the last ten years the U.S. economy has grown at exactly the same rate as it did during the 1930s.

If we want our economy to be great again, we need to go back and start doing the things that made it great in the first place.  If we continue to suffocate our economy, we will continue to get the same results.

And with each passing day, we get more signs that the economy is heading into another major downturn.  For instance, we just learned that Sears is closing 30 more stores on top of the 150 that had already been announced…

Sears Holdings, which wasn’t shy when it announced at the start of the year that it is closing 150 underperforming stores, has quietly added at least 30 more to the list.

Another 12 Sears stores and 18 Kmarts are among the locations that are closing, from Carson, Calif., to Hialeah, Fla., with most scheduled to shut their doors in July, based on calls to the stores, malls and confirmation in local media.

At the start of the year, the retailer pinpointed the 150 stores it said it would close. But it declined this week to provide a list of additional locations that are slated to shut since then, saying that it update store counts each quarter.

In addition, we just learned that new home sales in April were 11.4 percent lower than they were in March

If you’re surprised by the collapse in new home sales in April, then you’re not paying attention.

The 11.4% MoM plunge in new home sales in April was 5 standard deviations below expectations and the biggest since March 2015.

Yes, the stock market is holding up for the moment, but for most Americans the “real economy” just continues to deteriorate.  Just because we are at the end of a giant financial bubble does not mean that everything is going to be okay.

The numbers that I brought up in this article are just another example of our long-term economic decline.  In a healthy economy, entrepreneurs and small businesses would be thriving.  But instead, they are being systematically strangled out of existence by a political system that is wildly out of control.

Here Come The Robots – And They Are Going To Take Almost All Of Our Jobs

Robot Human Hand - Public DomainWhat is going to happen to society when robots are able to do just about everything better, faster and cheaper than human workers can?  We live at a time when technology is increasing at an exponential pace.  Incredible advancements in robotics, computer science and artificial intelligence are certainly making our lives more comfortable, but they are also bringing fundamental changes to the workplace.  For employers, there are a lot of advantages to replacing human workers with robots.  Robots don’t surf around on Facebook when they are supposed to be working. Robots don’t need Obamacare, lunch breaks or vacation days. Robots never steal from the company and they never complain.  Up until fairly recently, human workers could generally perform many tasks more cheaply than robots could, but now that is rapidly changing.

For example, a coffee shop has just opened up in San Francisco that is manned by a robot instead of a human…

Tired of your barista misspelling your name on your morning cup of joe? Perhaps a robot could do better. On Monday, Cafe X opened its very first robotic cafe in San Francisco’s Metreon shopping center. Promising “precision crafted specialty coffee in seconds, the way the roaster intended,” Cafe X thinks that anything a human can do, its machines can do better.

Specifically, one very special machine. Nicknamed Gordon, after a Cafe X employee, this robot mans, or robots, two standard professional coffee machines in order to serve up espressos and lattes. In the San Francisco location, customers can grab a cup of coffee with beans from AKA Coffee, Verve Coffee Roasters, or Peet’s. While the coffee itself may not make Cafe X stand out from the competition, the startup hopes that the robot’s efficiency will.

If that coffee shop demonstrates that it can be much more profitable than a coffee shop with human employees, it is just a matter of time before human baristas start to be phased out all over the nation.

A similar thing is happening in many supermarkets.  Personally, I hate the “self-checkout lines”, but you are starting to see them everywhere these days.

And according to the Sun, Amazon is playing around with a concept that would employ hardly any human workers at all…

In the case of Amazon’s automated retail prototype, a half-dozen workers could staff an average location. A manager’s duties would include signing up customers for the “Amazon Fresh” grocery service. Another worker would restock shelves, and still another two would be stationed at “drive-thru” windows for customers picking up their groceries, fast-food style.

The last pair would work upstairs, helping the robots bag groceries to be sent down to customers on “dumbwaiter”-like conveyors, a source said.

With the bare-bones payroll, the boost to profits could be huge. Indeed, the prototype being discussed calls for operating profit margins north of 20 percent. That compares with an industry average of just 1.7 percent, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

During the recent presidential campaign, much was made of the fact that we have shipped millions of good paying jobs overseas over the past several decades.

We can certainly try to make some laws that would keep American workers from losing jobs to foreign workers, but pretty soon workers all over the world are going to be losing millions of jobs to technology, and it is going to be just about impossible to make laws to prevent that from happening.

Just check out what is happening in China.  Many big firms had moved manufacturing to China because labor was much cheaper over there, but now a lot of those cheap Chinese workers are being replaced by robots

Apple’s iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn, in fact, has already begun automating certain work that was previously done by hand. A Chinese government official told a Hong Kong newspaper in May that Foxconn had replaced 60,000 workers with robots at one factory there. And the company is receiving incentives north of Shanghai in the eastern-central Jiangsu Province to accelerate investments in robotics to replace human labor, according to Chinese state media organization Xinhua.

Sadly, this is just the beginning.  According to one study, 49 percent of all activities currently performed by human workers could already “be turned over to some sort of machine or robot”…

About 49% of worker activities can be turned over to some sort of machine or robot, increasingly helped along by artificial-intelligence software, according to consultancy McKinsey.

About 58% of CEOs plan to cut jobs over the next five years because of robotics, while 16% say they plan to hire more people because of robotics, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey.

And Carl Frey of Oxford University has determined that some professions have more than a 90 percent chance of becoming automated in the coming years

The revelations that dependable office jobs such as insurance workers and real estate agents have a more than 97% chance of becoming computerised could now spark fears among the middle class workforce.

‘While low-skilled jobs are most exposed to automation over the forthcoming decades, a substantial number of middle-income jobs are equally at risk.’ Frey told The Times.

Other jobs that feature high on the ‘risk list’ are credit analysts who have a 97% chance of losing their jobs to robots, postal service workers at 95% and lab technicians who have an 89% chance of seeing their role become automated.

So what in the world are we going to do with billions of human workers around the globe that are no longer needed when technology takes virtually all of our jobs?

Some have suggested that the idea of “work” will become a thing of the past, and that society will evolve into a socialist utopia where everything we need is provided for by the government.  In fact, the concept of a “universal basic income” is already being promoted in Europe and elsewhere.

But others see a dystopian future where the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” grows greater than ever before.  Humanity has always been plagued by poverty and greed, and everyone agrees that the gap between the very wealthy and the rest of us has been growing very rapidly in recent years.

Where there is nearly universal agreement is on the fact that big changes are coming.  Workers are going to be displaced by technology at an accelerating rate in the years ahead, and this will present a tremendous challenge for us all.

Employment Boom: 10 Companies That Have Promised To Add Jobs In The United States Since Trump Was Elected

Hiring - Public DomainOne of the primary things that Trump’s presidency will be judged upon is his ability to encourage the creation of good paying jobs for American workers, and so far the results have been quite promising.  Since Trump’s surprise election victory in November, a whole bunch of companies have either promised to bring jobs back into the country or have pledged to create new ones.  Ultimately time will tell if those jobs actually materialize, but for the moment there is a tremendous amount of optimism in the air.  In fact, I don’t know if we have ever seen anything quite like this at the beginning of a new presidency.  The following are 10 companies that have promised to add jobs in the United States since the election of Donald Trump…

#1 Kroger says that it intends to fill 10,000 permanent positions in the United States this year.

#2 IBM has announced that it will be hiring an additional 25,000 workers in the United States over the next four years.

#3 Foxconn is considering setting up a 7 billion dollar plant in the United States that would create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs.

#4 Amazon.com has pledged to add 100,000 full-time jobs in the United States by mid-2018.

#5 Wal-Mart has announced that it plans to add approximately 10,000 retail jobs in the United States in 2017.

#6 Sprint has announced that 5,000 jobs will be brought back to the United States instead of going overseas.

#7 After meeting with Trump, the CEO of SoftBank stated his intention to create 50,000 new jobs in the United States.

#8 After a phone call from Trump, industrial manufacturing giant Carrier promised to keep hundreds of jobs in the United States instead of moving them out of the country.

#9 Hyundai has promised to spend 3.1 billion dollars supporting their current factories in Georgia and Alabama, and they have said that they are now considering adding an additional factory in the United States as well.

#10 GM has pledged to invest a billion dollars in U.S. factories and to add or keep 7,000 jobs in the United States.

Unlike most politicians, so far Donald Trump seems determined to actually keep many of the promises that he made during the campaign.  And on Monday he kept a very important promise by pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  If you are not familiar with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the following is a pretty good summary  from USA Today

The TPP is a comprehensive trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries, not including China, that was signed last year by President Obama after seven years of negotiation. But the Senate had not yet ratified it. The 30-chapter pact, which also needed to be ratified by other countries before Trump’s order Monday, primarily aims to boost exports, remove tariffs and non-tariff  barriers, open access to more markets and usher in transparency in trade rules.

The 12 nations that were to be included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership collectively account for approximately 40 percent of global GDP.  So it was going to be a very big deal, and it is something that Barack Obama had been working on for many years.

But with one stroke of a pen it is over, and as I will explain below that is a very good thing.

Trump is also promising to keep his pledge to renegotiate NAFTA

On Nafta, Trump said Sunday that he’ll meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to begin discussing the deal, which he has routinely blamed for the loss of U.S. jobs although there was little change to employment in the U.S. in several years after it went into effect. Trump signaled that he’s willing to work with the U.S.’s closest neighbors.

“We’re going to start renegotiating on Nafta, on immigration, and on security at the border,” Trump said at the start of a swearing-in ceremony for top White House staff. “I think we’re going to have a very good result for Mexico, for the United States, for everybody involved. It’s really very important.”

Nobody is suggesting that we shouldn’t trade with the rest of the world, but what Donald Trump understands that so many other politicians do not is that many of these “free trade deals” have been extremely destructive to the U.S. economy.

For years, we have been buying far, far more from the rest of the world than they have been buying from us.  As a result of our massive trade deficits, there has been a continual flow of cash, jobs and businesses leaving the country.

Over the past several decades, formerly great manufacturing cities such as Detroit have been reduced to urban hellholes.  Meanwhile, China has become exceedingly wealthy and gleaming new factories have sprouted like mushrooms in their major cities.

This didn’t happen by accident.

Bad decisions lead to bad results.  And if we had kept on doing the same things, we would have continued to systematically impoverish our nation.

For more than seven years, I have been hammering home the message that our trade policies have been absolutely killing us.  So I am quite thankful that we finally have a president that understands these things.

Of course there is much more to fixing our economy than just addressing our trade deals.  As I discussed yesterday, our rapidly growing debt is becoming a major crisis, and that is going to present quite a challenge for Trump.

But for the moment, we should definitely celebrate the fact that Trump has gotten us out of the TPP and that he plans to renegotiate NAFTA.

Donald Trump understands business, and it is going to be fascinating to watch how a businessman handles the position of the presidency.  It has only been a few days, but already some of his former critics seem to be coming around a little bit.  For instance, just consider what Mark Cuban is saying

The Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneur is “playing it by ear” when it comes to the effect President Donald Trump’s policies will have on the stock market. But he thinks there’s possible upside.

“I think the discussed economic programs are potentially a big plus for public companies and the overall economy,” Mr. Cuban said in an e-mail Monday morning.

The potential policies Mr. Cuban is optimistic about: corporate tax cuts; getting rid of the “friction” for small businesses; and reducing and simplifying administrative activities.

Considering our current trajectory and the immense amount of long-term damage that was done during the Obama years, it is hard to be optimistic about the future of the U.S. economy.

However, I am certainly willing to give Donald Trump a chance to show what he can do.

At least he is doing things differently than his predecessors did, and that is to be greatly applauded because the road that we were on clearly would have ended in economic oblivion.

We may very well end up there anyway, but there is certainly nothing wrong with being hopeful that Trump can somehow turn things around.

U.S. Economic Confidence Surges To The Highest Level That Gallup Has Ever Recorded

donald-trump-accepts-the-nomination-public-domainGallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index has never been higher than it is today.  The “Trumphoria” that has gripped the nation ever since Donald Trump’s miraculous victory on election night shows no signs of letting up.  Tens of millions of Americans that were deeply troubled by Barack Obama’s policies over the last eight years are feeling optimistic about the future for the first time in a very long time.  And it is hard to blame them, because what we have already seen happen since November 8th is nothing short of extraordinary.  The stock market keeps hitting record high after record high, the U.S. dollar is now the strongest that it has been in 14 years, and CEOs are personally promising Trump that they will bring jobs back to the United States.  These are things worth getting excited about, and so it makes perfect sense that Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index has now risen to the highest level that Gallup has ever seen

Americans’ confidence in the economy continues to gradually strengthen after last month’s post-election surge. Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index averaged +10 for the week ending Dec. 18, marking another new high in its nine-year trend.

The latest figure is up slightly from the index’s previous high of +8 recorded in both of the prior two weeks. The first positive double-digit index score since the inception of Gallup Daily tracking in 2008 reflects a stark change in Americans’ confidence in the U.S. economy from the negative views they expressed in most weeks over the past nine years.

And of course this booming level of confidence is not just reflected in Gallup’s numbers.  As I discussed in a previous article, the mammoth shift in the results of CNBC’s All-America Economic Survey after the election was nothing short of historic…

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey for the fourth quarter found that the percentage of Americans who believe the economy will get better in the next year jumped an unprecedented 17 points to 42 percent, compared with before the election. It’s the highest level since President Barack Obama was first elected in 2008.

The surge was powered by Republicans and independents reversing their outlooks. Republicans swung from deeply pessimistic, with just 15 percent saying the economy would improve in the next year, to strongly optimistic, with 74 percent believing in an economic upswing. Optimism among independents doubled but it fell by more than half for Democrats. Just 16 percent think the economy will improve.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at yet another all-time record high.

That was the 17th record close since election day, and overall the Dow is up a whopping 8 percent during that time span.

I don’t think that we have ever seen an extended post-election stock market rally quite like this one, and the U.S. dollar is rallying too.  On Tuesday, the U.S. dollar was the strongest that it has been in 14 years

The dollar hit a fresh 14-year high on Tuesday, boosted by upbeat comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that kept alive market expectations for swifter U.S. interest rate hikes next year than had been expected.

The greenback climbed broadly but its gains were strongest against the yen, which slid as much as 1 percent after the Bank of Japan kept monetary policy unchanged.

But of course not everything is rainbows and unicorns.  Signs of trouble continue to erupt all over the U.S. economy, and there are many that believe that Trump will be facing some very serious economic concerns very early in his presidency.

Just look at what is happening in the auto industry.  Unsold vehicles are piling up at an alarming pace at dealers all over the nation, and GM just announced that it is going to temporarily close five factories

GM has been reacting to its fabulously ballooning inventory glut by piling incentives on its vehicles. But that hasn’t worked all that well though it cost a lot of money. Now it’s time to get serious.

It will temporarily close five assembly plants in January and lay off over 10,000 employees, spokeswoman Dayna Hart said today.

And GM is definitely not alone.  Back in October, Ford made a similar announcement

In October, Ford announced that it would temporarily shut down production at one of its F-150 assembly plants (Kansas City), along with production at a plant that assembles the Escape and the Lincoln MKC (Louisville), plus two plants in Mexico. It would also lay off about 13,000 workers, 9,000 in the US and 4,000 in Mexico.

Another signal that the economy is slowing down is the tremendous difficulty that Uber is experiencing right now.  If you can believe it, they just announced that they lost a staggering 800 million dollars in the third quarter

Uber racked up pro-forma losses of more than $800m in the third quarter of this year as a price war with rival ride-hailing service Lyft in the US and heavy spending on new initiatives weighed on its figures, according to a person familiar with its recent financial performance, reports The Financial Times.

The third-quarter figures, first reported by tech news site The Information, show that Uber still faces steep losses even after pulling back from China.

I don’t understand how Uber could possibly lose 800 million dollars in three months.  Something is definitely very wrong over there.

Personally, I hope that things go as well as possible during the Trump administration.  If we truly are entering a new golden era of peace and prosperity, that would be more than okay with me.

But we should not forget that our economic fundamentals have continued to deteriorate all throughout the Obama years, and our nation has been steadily accumulating the largest mountain of debt the world has ever seen.

Unless there is some sort of unprecedented miracle, there is no way that this giant bubble that we are in at the moment is going to end well.  So it is definitely good to be optimistic, but we also need to be realistic about where we are right now and about the great challenges that we will soon be facing.

More Jobs Shipped Out Of The Country: Ford Moves All Small Car Production To Mexico

ford-assembly-line-photo-by-gilly-berlinWhat is going to happen when America finally doesn’t have any manufacturing jobs left at all?  On Wednesday, we learned that Ford Motor Company is shifting all small car production to Mexico.  Of course the primary goal for this move is to save a little bit of money.  This hits me personally, because my grandfather once worked for Ford.  He was loyal to Ford all his life, and he always criticized other members of the family when they bought a vehicle that was not American-made.  When I was young I didn’t understand why making vehicles in America is so important, but I sure do now.  By shipping jobs overseas, we are destroying jobs, we are destroying small businesses and we are destroying our tax base.  If we want to be a wealthy nation, we have got to make things here, and hopefully we can get the American people to start to understand this.

In 1914, Henry Ford decided to start paying his workers $5.00 a day, which was more than double the average wage for auto workers at the time.

One of the reasons why he did this was because he felt that his workers should be able to afford to buy the vehicles that they were making.  This is what he wrote in 1926

“The owner, the employees, and the buying public are all one and the same, and unless an industry can so manage itself as to keep wages high and prices low it destroys itself, for otherwise it limits the number of its customers. One’s own employees ought to be one’s own best customers.”

These days Ford is going in the complete opposite direction.  Pretty soon, Ford won’t be making any more small vehicles in the United States at all

Ford is shifting all North American small-car production from the U.S. to Mexico, CEO Mark Fields told investors today in Dearborn, even though its plans to invest in Mexico have become a lightning rod for controversy in this year’s presidential election.

Over the next two to three years, we will have migrated all of our small-car production to Mexico and out of the United States,” Fields said.

Could Ford keep jobs in America?

Of course they could.  During the second quarter of 2016, Ford reported a net income of 2,000,000,000 dollars.

But if they move production to Mexico they can boost that profit just a little bit higher.

Shame on them.

Needless to say, Donald Trump is quite upset about this move by Ford.  This was his response

“We shouldn’t allow it to happen. They’ll make their cars, they’ll employ thousands of people, not from this country and they’ll sell their car across the border,” Trump said. “When we send our jobs out of Michigan, we’re also sending our tax base.”

And he is exactly right about all of this.  We can’t afford to lose more good paying jobs, we can’t afford for the middle class to shrink any more than it already has, and we certainly can’t afford our tax base to continue to deteriorate.

We may think that we can live on borrowed money indefinitely, but that is going to catch up with us in a major way at some point.

Sadly, Ford is not the only auto company doing this.  Just like Ross Perot once predicted, there is a giant sucking sound as good paying auto jobs leave the United States and head to Mexico

Ford isn’t alone. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said earlier this year it will end production of all cars in the U.S. by the end of this year as it discontinues production of the Dodge Dart in Belvidere, Ill. and the Chrysler 200 in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

In recent years, automakers that include General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Mazda, Toyota and Volkswagen have all announced plans to either expand existing plants or build new ones in Mexico.

The bad news for American workers won’t end once all of our manufacturing jobs are gone.

Today there are millions of Americans that make their living by driving, but the revolution in self-driving vehicles threatens to make large numbers of those jobs obsolete.

Ford, General Motors, Tesla, Google, Apple and a whole host of other big corporations have been feverishly working on this technology, and many of the tests have gone very well so far.

Once this technology starts being rolled out on a widespread basis, the job losses could be absolutely staggering.  Just consider the following numbers which come from Wolf Richter

  • 1.8 million heavy-truck and tractor-trailer long-haul drivers in 2014, expected to grow 4% a year (BLS), with a median pay of $40,260 in 2015. At this growth rate, there will be 1.94 million long-haul drivers by the end of this year.
  • 1.33 million delivery truck drivers in 2014, expected to grow 4% a year (BLS), with a median pay of $27,800 in 2015. They’re picking up and/or delivering packages and small shipments within the city or region, driving a vehicle of 26,000 pounds or less, usually between a distribution center and businesses or households. At this growth rate, there will be 1.44 million drivers by the end of this year.
  • 233,700 taxi drivers and chauffeurs in 2014, growing at 13% annually (BLS). They earned a median pay of $23,510 in 2015. One in five worked part time. This doesn’t – or doesn’t fully – reflect the “rideshare” drivers working for Uber, Lyft, and the like.
  • “Over 500,000” rideshare drivers are estimated to ply the trade in the US. It’s a high-growth sector: the number of Uber drivers in the US doubled in 2015 from the prior year to 327,000. Half of them worked 15 hours or less per week.

In order to have a thriving middle class, we have got to have middle class jobs.

Unfortunately, big corporations have become absolutely obsessed with finding ways to eliminate expensive American workers by sending jobs overseas or by replacing them with technology altogether.

The elite will always need people to cut their hair and wait on them at restaurants, but those aren’t the kinds of jobs that can support middle class families.

As I noted yesterday, for the first time ever the middle class in America has become a minority and poverty is on the rise all over the nation.  The long-term trends that are eviscerating the middle class are accelerating, and there doesn’t appear to be any quick fix which will turn things around dramatically any time soon.

So the middle class is going to get smaller and smaller and smaller, and that has dramatic implications for the future of this country.