The Beginning Of The End
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50 Percent Of American Workers Make Less Than 28,031 Dollars A Year

Real Median Household Income 2014The Social Security Administration has just released wage statistics for 2013, and the numbers are startling.  Last year, 50 percent of all American workers made less than $28,031, and 39 percent of all American workers made less than $20,000.  If you worked a full-time job at $10 an hour all year long with two weeks off, you would make $20,000.  So the fact that 39 percent of all workers made less than that amount is rather telling.  This is more evidence of the declining quality of the jobs in this country.  In many homes in America today, both parents are working multiple jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet. Our paychecks are stagnant while the cost of living just continues to soar.  And the jobs that are being added to the economy pay a lot less than the jobs lost in the last recession.  In fact, it has been estimated that the jobs that have been created since the last recession pay an average of 23 percent less than the jobs that were lost.  We are witnessing the slow-motion destruction of the middle class, and very few of our leaders seem to care.

The “average” yearly wage in America last year was just $43,041.  But after accounting for inflation, that was actually worse than the year before

American paychecks shrank last year, just-released data show, further eroding the public’s purchasing power, which is so vital to economic growth.

Average pay for 2013 was $43,041 — down $79 from the previous year when measured in 2013 dollars. Worse, average pay fell $508 below the 2007 level, my analysis of the new Social Security Administration data shows.

Flat or declining average pay is a major reason so many Americans feel that the Great Recession never ended for them. A severe job shortage compounds that misery not just for workers but also for businesses trying to profit from selling goods and services.

Average pay declined in 59 of the 60 levels of worker pay the government reports each October.

And please keep in mind that “average pay” is really skewed by the millionaires and billionaires at the top end of the spectrum.

Median pay in 2013 was just $28,031.02.  That means that 50 percent of American workers made less than that number, and 50 percent of American workers made more than that number.

Here are some more numbers from the report that the Social Security Administration just released…

-39 percent of American workers made less than $20,000 last year.

-52 percent of American workers made less than $30,000 last year.

-63 percent of American workers made less than $40,000 last year.

-72 percent of American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

I don’t know about you, but those numbers are deeply troubling to me.

It has been estimated that it takes approximately $50,000 a year to support a middle class lifestyle for a family of four, and so the fact that 72 percent of all workers make less than that amount shows how difficult it is for families that try to get by with just a single breadwinner.

The way that our economy is structured now, both parents usually have to work as hard as they can just to pay the bills.

But there was one group of Americans that did see their incomes actually increase last year.

Those making over 50 million dollars had their pay increase by an average of $12.8 million in 2013.

For everyone else, the news was not good.

And of course this is a trend that has been going on for a long time.

Posted below is a chart that comes from the Federal Reserve.  It shows how real median household income in the United States has declined since the year 2000…

Real Median Household Income 2014

Meanwhile, the cost of living has continued to rise at a steady pace.

Needless to say, this is putting a tremendous squeeze on the middle class.  With each passing day, more Americans are losing their spots in the middle class and this has pushed government dependence to an all-time high.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans now live in a home that receives money from the government each month.  This is completely and totally unsustainable, but our long-term economic problems just keep getting worse.

Our politicians have stood by as millions upon millions of good paying jobs have been shipped out of the country.  Millions of other middle class jobs have been lost to technology.  This has resulted in intense competition for the middle class jobs that remain.

And at this point we are even losing lots of lower paying retail jobs.  For example, it is being reported that Sears plans to close 110 more stores and lay off more than 6,000 workers.  Sears says that the report “isn’t accurate”, but it isn’t denying that stores will be closed either…

In an email to USA Today, Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said the store count and closures “isn’t accurate,” but did not provide store closures or layoff numbers.

“As we stated in our (second quarter earnings report), we disclosed that we would be closing unprofitable stores as leases expire and in some cases will accelerate closings when it is economically prudent. And that we would consider closing additional stores during the remainder of the year,” Riefs said. “Make no mistake, we believe the store will continue to play an integral role in our transformation, however, if a store is not generating a profit, it is straightforward that the store should be considered for closure.”

No matter how many stores Sears does end up closing over the next few months, the truth is that our economy is a complete and total mess at this point.

Our politicians and the mainstream media are trying to put a happy face on everything, but the cold, hard numbers prove that we are not anywhere close to where we were prior to the last recession.

Because it is so difficult to find a good job in America today, I often recommend to people that they should consider starting their own businesses.

But thanks to the bureaucratic control freaks in the Obama administration and in our state governments, small business ownership in America today is at an all-time low.  It is almost as if they don’t want the “little guy” to win.  Every avenue of prosperity for the middle class is under assault, and there does not appear to be much hope that this will change any time soon.

And the truly frightening thing is that this is about as good as things are going to get for the middle class.  We are rapidly approaching the next major wave of our long-term economic decline, but that is a topic for a future article.

30 stats to show to anyone that does not believe the middle class is being destroyed

Abandoned House - Photo by Flickr User baldeaglebluffThe 30 statistics that you are about to read prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the middle class in America is being systematically destroyed.  Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a staggering pace.  Yes, the stock market has soared to unprecedented heights this year and there are a few isolated areas of the country that are doing rather well for the moment.  But overall, the long-term trends that are eviscerating the middle class just continue to accelerate.  Over the past decade or so, the percentage of Americans that are working has gone way down, the quality of our jobs has plummeted dramatically and the wealth of the typical American household has fallen precipitously.  Meanwhile, we have watched median household income decline for five years in a row, we have watched the rate of homeownership in this country decline for eight years in a row and dependence on the government is at an all-time high.  Being a part of the middle class in the United States at this point can be compared to playing a game of musical chairs.  We can all see chairs being removed from the game, and we are all desperate to continue to have a chair every time the music stops playing.  The next time the music stops, will it be your chair that gets removed?

And in this economy, you don’t even have to lose your job to fall out of the middle class.  Our paychecks are remaining very stable while the cost of almost everything that we spend money on consistently (food, gas, health insurance, etc.) is going up rapidly.  Bloomberg calls this “the no-raises recovery”…

Call it the no-raises recovery: Five years of economic expansion have done almost nothing to boost paychecks for typical American workers while the rich have gotten richer.

Meager improvements since 2009 have barely kept up with a similarly tepid pace of inflation, raising the real value of compensation per hour by only 0.5 percent. That marks the weakest growth since World War II, with increases averaging 9.2 percent at a similar point in past expansions, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data compiled by Bloomberg.

There are so many families out there that are struggling right now.  So many husbands and wives find themselves constantly fighting with one another about money, and they don’t even understand that what is happening to them is the result of long-term economic trends that are the result of decades of incredibly foolish decisions.  Without middle class jobs, we cannot have a middle class.  And those are precisely the jobs that have been destroyed during the Clinton, Bush and Obama years.  Without enough good jobs to go around, we have seen the middle class steadily shrink and the ranks of the poor grow rapidly.

The following are 30 stats to show to anyone that does not believe the middle class is being destroyed…

1. In 2007, the average household in the top 5 percent had 16.5 times as much wealth as the average household overall.  But now the average household in the top 5 percent has 24 times as much wealth as the average household overall.

2. According to a study recently discussed in the New York Times, the “typical American household” is now worth 36 percent less than it was worth a decade ago.

3. One out of every seven Americans rely on food banks at this point.

4. One out of every four military families needs help putting enough food on the table.

5. 79 percent of the people that use food banks purchase “inexpensive, unhealthy food just to have enough to feed their families”.

6. One out of every three adults in the United States has an unpaid debt that is “in collections“.

7. Only 48 percent of all Americans can immediately come up with $400 in emergency cash without borrowing it or selling something.

8. The price of food continues to rise much faster than the paychecks of most middle class families.  For example, the average price of ground beef has just hit a brand new all-time record high of $3.884 a pound.

9. According to one recent study, 40 percent of all households in the United States are experiencing financial stress right now.

10. The overall homeownership rate has fallen to the lowest level since 1995.

11. The homeownership rate for Americans under the age of 35 is at an all-time low.

12. According to one recent survey, 52 percent of all Americans cannot even afford the house that they are living in right now.

13. The average age of vehicles on America’s roads has hit an all-time high of 11.4 years.

14. Last year, one out of every four auto loans in the United States was made to someone with subprime credit.

15. Amazingly, one out of every six men in their prime working years (25 to 54) do not have a job at this point.

16. One recent study found that 47 percent of unemployed Americans have “completely given up” looking for a job.

17. 36 percent of Americans do not have a single penny saved for retirement.

18. According to one survey, 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

19. More than half of all working Americans make less than $30,000 a year in wages.

20. Only four of the twenty fastest growing occupations in America require a Bachelor’s degree or better.

21.  In America today, one out of every ten jobs is filled by a temp agency.

22. Due to a lack of decent jobs, half of all college graduates are still relying on their parents financially when they are two years out of school.

23. Median household income in the United States is about 7 percent lower than it was in the year 2000 after adjusting for inflation.

24. Approximately one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.

25. It is hard to believe, but more than one out of every five children in the United States is living in poverty in 2014.

26. According to one study, there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity.

27. Ten years ago, the number of women in the U.S. that had jobs outnumbered the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin.  But now the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps actually exceeds the number of women that have jobs.

28. If the middle class was actually thriving, we wouldn’t have more than a million public school children that are homeless.

29. If you can believe it, Americans received more than 2 trillion dollars in benefits from the federal government last year alone.

30. In terms of median wealth per adult, the United States is now in just 19th place in the world.

Job = Just Over Broke

Jobs - Public DomainIf you are fortunate enough to have a job in America today, the phrase “just over broke” probably describes you.  Yes, there are a handful of jobs that certainly pay very well, but most Americans that work for somebody else are just barely making it from month to month.  More than half of all working Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and more than half of all working Americans make less than $30,000 a year.  That is an amazing statistic but it is actually true.  Once upon a time, anyone that was responsible and that was willing to work hard could get a good job in America.  But now those days are long gone.  Instead, we live at a time when good jobs are disappearing and when the middle class is getting smaller with each passing year.  In some homes, the husband and the wife are both working multiple jobs and they can still barely pay their bills.  Something has gone horribly wrong, and yet our leaders just keep telling us how wonderful our economy is.

One of the biggest things that has killed jobs in this country is the fact that the U.S. economy has been steadily merged into the emerging one world economic system over the past several decades.  They call it “free trade”, but they never told us that we would be merged into a single global labor pool where we would be competing directly for jobs with workers on the other side of the planet that live in nations where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.

According to Gallup, only about 1.3 billion people around the world work full-time for an employer at this point.

But overall there are more than 7 billion people.

That means that there are a whole lot of really poor, really desperate people that need to be employed.

This has been wonderful for the big corporations.  They can just take jobs away from American workers and give them to people who are willing to work for less than a tenth of what an American worker would make.  This has resulted in the systematic deindustrialization of the United States and horrific decline in dozens of formerly great manufacturing cities.

At the same time, we have also been losing millions of middle class jobs to technology.  At this point, robots are even starting to replace warehouse workers and fast food employees.  As robots become even more advanced and become even cheaper to produce, there will be less jobs available for the rest of us.

And what happens when robots can do everything better than us?

Because there are fewer middle class jobs available, the competition for the remaining jobs has become incredibly intense.  In recent years, millions of Americans have been forced to take just about anything that they can get.  For those Americans, “just over broke” has become “just trying to survive” as they scratch and claw their way through life.

A recent CNBC article profiled one such individual.  His name is Ken Bowman, and his job at a guitar shop just barely enables him to pay his rent and feed himself…

Ken Bowman joins the line for a free lunch in the Youngstown Salvation Army canteen, just like he does every Friday.

Looking younger than his 21 years, his hair dyed jet black and wearing big, battered boots, Bowman plays heavy metal on his cell phone. He chooses a seat at the end of a table and sits hunched over his tray, his blues eyes furtively sweeping the room. The others sit in packs, regulars who’ve formed lunchtime friendships over their burnt coffee and peppered corn, discussing the jobs they once had and the government benefits they no longer get.

Bowman is sensitive to the stigma of accepting handouts like lunch. “[It] doesn’t mean you’re homeless or poor, people have standards but they struggle,” he said, his chin jutting out, his eyes glowering.

After paying his rent, Bowman says his job in a guitar shop leaves him with $50 a month to live on — if he can get shifts. He is one of America’s “underemployed,” a group of as many as 11 million Americans struggling to survive in society’s shadows on wages that put them below the federal poverty line.

There are millions of others out there just like Bowman.  In fact, as I mentioned in a previous article, one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.  The “working poor” is a phrase that describes a very large segment of the U.S. population today.

And the cold, hard truth of the matter is that most of the country is steadily getting poorer.  According to a study recently discussed in the New York Times, the “typical American household” is now worth 36 percent less than it was worth a decade ago.  That is a staggering decline in just ten years.

Meanwhile, the cost of living continues to rise.  This is something that I have discussed repeatedly, but sometimes a picture can say things far better than any words can.

The photo posted below has been floating around on Twitter.  It is of a McDonald’s menu from the 1960s.  As you can see, prices have gone up a little bit since then…

Inflation - McDonald's

Most people think that I am crazy when I tell them that I can remember a cup of coffee being sold for a quarter when I was young.  But it is true.  Over the long-term, our purchasing power has been systematically destroyed by the insane polices of the Federal Reserve.

Sadly, most Americans don’t understand any of this.  They just trust that our leaders actually know what they are doing.  Meanwhile, they just keep on struggling to survive in an economic system that is stacked against them.

According to one recent study, 40 percent of all households in the United States are experiencing financial stress right now and the homeownership rate for Americans under the age of 35 is at an all-time low.

In the old days, if you got your education, worked hard and did all the right things, it was just about an automatic ticket to the middle class.

Today it doesn’t work like that.

Instead, more Americans than ever are being forced to become dependent on the government.  If you can believe it, Americans received more than 2 trillion dollars in benefits from the federal government last year alone.

So it astounds me whenever I hear anyone say that the economy is in “good shape”.

How can it be in “good shape” when one out of every three adults in the United States has an unpaid debt that is “in collections” and there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity?

The truth is that we are in the midst of a long-term economic decline that is the result of decades of incredibly foolish decisions.

Until the American people start understanding what has happened to us, they are never going to demand real change that actually accomplishes something.

The Robots Are Coming, And They Are Replacing Warehouse Workers And Fast Food Employees

Robot 2014There are already more than 101 million working age Americans that are not employed and 20 percent of the families in the entire country do not have a single member that has a job.  So what in the world are we going to do when robots start taking millions upon millions more of our jobs? Thanks to technology, the balance of power between employers and workers in this country is shifting dramatically in favor of the employers.  These days, many employers are wondering why they are dealing with so many human worker “headaches” when they can just use technology to get the same tasks done instead.  When you replace a human worker with a robot, you solve a whole bunch of problems.  Robots never take a day off, they never get tired, they never get sick, they never complain, they never show up late, they never waste time on the Internet and they always do what you tell them to do.  In addition, robotic technology has advanced to the point where it is actually cheaper to buy robots than it is to hire humans for a vast variety of different tasks.  From the standpoint of societal efficiency, this is a good thing.  But what happens when robots are able to do just about everything less expensively and more efficiently than humans can?  Where will our jobs come from?

And this is not something that is coming at some point in “the future”.

This is already happening.

According to CNN, there will be 10,000 robots working to fulfill customer orders in Amazon.com warehouses by the end of 2014…

Amazon will be using 10,000 robots in its warehouses by the end of the year.

CEO Jeff Bezos told investors at a shareholder meeting Wednesday that he expects to significantly increase the number of robots used to fulfill customer orders.

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love Amazon.  And if robots can get me my stuff faster and less expensively that sounds great.

But what if everyone starts using these kinds of robots?

What will that do to warehouse jobs?

PC World has just done a report on a new warehouse robot known as “UBR-1″.  This robot is intended to perform tasks “normally done by human workers”…

The UBR-1 is a 4-foot tall, one-armed robot that could make warehouses and factories more efficient by performing tasks normally done by human workers.

Unlike the industrial robots widely used in manufacturing today—usually large machines isolated from people for safety reasons—this robot can work alongside humans or autonomously in a workspace filled with people.

This little robot costs $50,000, and it can work all day and all night.  It just needs a battery change every once in a while.  The creators of this robot envision it performing a vast array of different tasks…

“We see the robot as doing tasks, they could be dull, they could be dirty, they could be dangerous and doing them repetitively all day in a light manufacturing environment,” said Melonee Wise, Unbounded Robotics CEO and co-founder. Those tasks include stocking shelves, picking up objects and assembling parts.

The UBR-1 isn’t designed for small component assembly, but it can manipulate objects as small as dice or a Lego piece, Wise said. Unbounded Robotics is targeting companies that want some automation to speed up their manufacturing process, but can’t afford to fully automate their businesses.

To many people this may sound very exciting.

But what if a robot like that took your job?

Would it be exciting then?

Of course you can’t outlaw robots.  And you can’t force companies to hire human workers.

But we could potentially have major problems in our society as jobs at the low end of the wage scale quickly disappear.

According to CNN, restaurants all over the nation are going to automated service, and a recent University of Oxford study concluded that there is a 92 percent chance that most fast food jobs will be automated in the coming years…

Panera Bread is the latest chain to introduce automated service, announcing last month that it plans to bring self-service ordering kiosks as well as a mobile ordering option to all its locations within the next three years. The news follows moves from Chili’s and Applebee’s to place tablets on their tables, allowing diners to order and pay without interacting with human wait staff at all.

Panera, which spent $42 million developing its new system, claims it isn’t planning any job cuts as a result of the technology, but some analysts see this kind of shift as unavoidable for the industry.

In a widely cited paper released last year, University of Oxford researchers estimated that there is a 92% chance that fast-food preparation and serving will be automated in the coming decades.

It is being projected that other types of jobs will soon be automated as well

Delivery drivers could be replaced en masse by self-driving cars, which are likely to hit the market within a decade or two, or even drones. In food preparation, there are start-ups offering robots for bartending and gourmet hamburger preparation. A food processing company in Spain now uses robots to inspect heads of lettuce on a conveyor belt, throwing out those that don’t meet company standards, the Oxford researchers report.

Could you imagine such a world?

When self-driving vehicles take over, what will happen to the 3.1 million Americans that drive trucks for a living?

Our planet is changing at a pace that is almost inconceivable.

Over the past decade, the big threat to our jobs has been workers on the other side of the globe that live in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.

But now even those workers are having their jobs taken away by robots.  For example, just check out what is happening in China

Foxconn has been planning to buy 1 million robots to replace human workers and it looks like that change, albeit gradual, is about to start.

The company is allegedly paying $25,000 per robot – about three times a worker’s average salary – and they will replace humans in assembly tasks. The plans have been in place for a while – I spoke to Foxconn reps about this a year ago – and it makes perfect sense. Humans are messy, they want more money, and having a half-a-million of them in one factory is a recipe for unrest. But what happens after the halls are clear of careful young men and women and instead full of whirring robots?

Perhaps you think that your job could never be affected because you do something that requires a “human touch” like caring for the elderly.

Well, according to Reuters, robots are moving into that arena as well…

Imagine you’re 85, and living alone. Your children are halfway across the country, and you’re widowed. You have a live-in aide – but it’s not human. Your personal robot reminds you to take your medicine, monitors your diet and exercise, plays games with you, and even helps you connect with family members on the Internet.

And robots are even threatening extremely skilled professions such as doctors.  For instance, just check out this excerpt from a Bloomberg article entitled “Doctor Robot Will See You Shortly“…

Johnson & Johnson proposes to replace anesthesiologists during simple procedures such as colonoscopies — not with nurse practitioners, but with machines. Sedasys, which dispenses propofol and monitors a patient automatically, was recently approved for use in healthy adult patients who have no particular risk of complications. Johnson & Johnson will lease the machines to doctor’s offices for $150 per procedure — cleverly set well below the $600 to $2,000 that anesthesiologists usually charge.

And this is just the beginning.  In a previous article, I discussed the groundbreaking study by Dr. Carl Frey and Dr. Michael Osborne of Oxford University which came to the conclusion that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs could be automated within the next 20 years.

47 percent?

That is crazy.

What will the middle class do as their jobs are taken away?

The world that we live in is becoming a radically different place than the one that we grew up in.

The robots are coming, and they are going to take millions of our jobs.

So what do you think of this robot invasion?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

29 Percent Of All U.S. Adults Under The Age Of 35 Are Living With Their Parents

Why Are So Many Young Adults Moving Back In With Mommy And DaddyWhy are so many young adults in America living with their parents?  According to a stunning Gallup survey that was recently released, nearly three out of every ten adults in the United States under the age of 35 are still living at home with Mom and Dad.  This closely lines up with a Pew Research Center analysis of Census data that looked at a younger sample of Americans which found that 36 percent of Americans 18 to 31 years old were still living with their parents.  That was the highest level that had ever been recorded.  Overall, approximately 25 million U.S. adults are currently living at home with their parents according to Time Magazine.  So what is causing all of this?  Well, there are certainly a lot of factors.  Overwhelming student loan debt, a depressing lack of jobs and the high cost of living are all definitely playing a role.  But many would argue that what we are witnessing goes far beyond temporary economic conditions.  There are many that believe that we have fundamentally failed our young people and have neglected to equip them with the skills and values that they need to be successful in the real world.

More Americans than ever before seem to be living in a state of “perpetual adolescence”.  As Gallup noted, one of the keys to adulthood is to be able to establish independence from your parents…

An important milestone in adulthood is establishing independence from one’s parents, including finding a job, a place to live and, for most, a spouse or partner, and starting one’s own family. However, there are potential roadblocks on the path to independence that may force young adults to live with their parents longer, including a weak job market, the high cost of living, significant college debt, and helping care for an elderly or disabled parent.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to become financially independent.  While they are in high school, we endlessly pound into their heads the need to go to college.  Then we urge them to take out whatever loans that they will need to pay for it, ensuring them that they will be able to get “good jobs” which will enable them to pay off those loans when they graduate.

Of course a very large percentage of them find that there aren’t any “good jobs” waiting for them when they graduate.  But because of the crippling loans that they have accumulated, they quickly realize that they have decades of debt slavery ahead of them.

Just consider the following numbers about the growth of student loan debt in the United States…

-The total amount of student loan debt in the United States has risen to a brand new all-time record of 1.08 trillion dollars.

-Student loan debt accounted for 3.1 percent of all consumer debt in 2003.  Today, it accounts for 9.4 percent of all consumer debt.

-In the third quarter of 2007, the student loan delinquency rate was 7.6 percent.  Today, it is up to 11.5 percent.

This is a student loan debt bubble unlike anything that we have ever seen before, and it seems to get worse with each passing year.

So when is the bubble going to finally burst?

Meanwhile, our young adults are still really struggling to find jobs.

For those in the 18 to 29-year-old age bracket, it is getting even harder to find full-time employment.  In June 2012, 47 percent of those in that entire age group had a full-time job.  One year later, in June 2013, only 43.6 percent of that entire age group had a full-time job.

And in many ways, things are far tougher for those that didn’t finish college than for those that did.  In fact, the unemployment rate for 27-year-old college dropouts is nearly three times as high as the unemployment rate for those that finished college.

In addition, since Barack Obama has been president close to 40 percent of all 27-year-olds have spent at least some time unemployed.

So it should be no surprise that 27-year-olds are really struggling financially.  Only about one out of every five 27-year-olds owns a home at this point, and an astounding 80 percent of all 27-year-olds are in debt.

Even if a young adult is able to find a job, that does not mean that it will be enough to survive on.  The quality of jobs in America continues to go downhill and so do wages.

The ratio of what men in the 18 to 29-year-old age bracket are earning compared to what the general population is earning is at an all-time low, and American families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

No wonder so many young people are living at home.  Trying to survive in the real world is not easy.

Many of those that are trying to make it on their own are really struggling to do so.  Just consider the case of Kevin Burgos.  He earns $10.50 an hour working as an assistant manager at a Dunkin Donuts location in Hartford, Connecticut.  According to CNN, he can’t seem to make enough to support his family no matter how hard he works…

He works 35 hours each week to support his family of three young children. All told, Burgos makes about $1,800 each month.

But his bills for basic necessities, including rent for his two-bedroom apartment, gas for his car, diapers and visits to the doctor, add up to $2,400. To cover these expenses without falling short, Burgos would need to make at least $17 per hour.

“I am always worried about what I’m going to do for tomorrow,” Burgos said.

There are millions of young people out there that are pounding their heads against the wall month after month trying to work hard and do the right thing.  Sometimes they get so frustrated that they snap.  Just consider the following example

Health officials have temporarily shut down a southern West Virginia pizza restaurant after a district manager was caught on surveillance video urinating into a sink.

Local media reported that the Mingo County health department ordered the Pizza Hut in Kermit, about 85 miles southwest of Charleston, to shut down.

But as I mentioned earlier, instead of blaming young people for their failures, perhaps we need to take a good, long look at how we have raised them.

The truth is that our public schools are a joke, SAT scores are at an all-time low, and we have pushed nearly all discussion of morality, values and faith out of the public square.

No wonder most of our young people are dumb as a rock and seem to have no moral compass.

Or could it be possible that I am being too hard on them?

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

Vast Stretches Of Impoverished Appalachia Look Like They Have Been Through A War

West VirginiaIf you want to get an idea of where the rest of America is heading, just take a trip through the western half of West Virginia and the eastern half of Kentucky some time.  Once you leave the main highways, you will rapidly encounter poverty on a level that is absolutely staggering.  Overall, about 15 percent of the entire nation is under the poverty line, but in some areas of eastern Kentucky, more than 40 percent of the population is living in poverty.  Most of the people would work if they could.  Over the past couple of decades, locals have witnessed businesses and industries leave the region at a steady pace.  When another factory or business shuts down, many of the unemployed do not even realize that their jobs have been shipped overseas.  Coal mining still produces jobs that pay a decent wage, but Barack Obama is doing his very best to kill off that entire industry.  After decades of decline, vast stretches of impoverished Appalachia look like they have been through a war.  Those living in the area know that things are not good, but they just try to do the best that they can with what they have.

In previous articles about areas of the country that are economically depressed, I have typically focused on large cities such as Detroit or Camden, New Jersey.  But the economic suffering that is taking place in rural communities in the heartland of America is just as tragic.  We just don’t hear about it as much.

Most of those that live in the heart of Appalachia are really good “salt of the earth” people that just want to work hard and do what is right for their families.  But after decades of increasing poverty, the entire region has been transformed into an economic nightmare that never seems to end.  The following is a description of what life is like in Appalachia today that comes from a recent article by Kevin D. Williamson

Thinking about the future here and its bleak prospects is not much fun at all, so instead of too much black-minded introspection you have the pills and the dope, the morning beers, the endless scratch-off lotto cards, healing meetings up on the hill, the federally funded ritual of trading cases of food-stamp Pepsi for packs of Kentucky’s Best cigarettes and good old hard currency, tall piles of gas-station nachos, the occasional blast of meth, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, petty crime, the draw, the recreational making and surgical unmaking of teenaged mothers, and death: Life expectancies are short — the typical man here dies well over a decade earlier than does a man in Fairfax County, Va. — and they are getting shorter, women’s life expectancy having declined by nearly 1.1 percent from 1987 to 2007.

In these kinds of conditions, people do whatever they have to do just to survive.  With so much poverty around, serving those on food stamps has become an important part of the local economy.  In fact, cases of soda purchased with food stamps have become a form of “alternative currency” in the region.  In his article, Williamson described how this works…

It works like this: Once a month, the debit-card accounts of those receiving what we still call food stamps are credited with a few hundred dollars — about $500 for a family of four, on average — which are immediately converted into a unit of exchange, in this case cases of soda. On the day when accounts are credited, local establishments accepting EBT cards — and all across the Big White Ghetto, “We Accept Food Stamps” is the new E pluribus unum – are swamped with locals using their public benefits to buy cases and cases — reports put the number at 30 to 40 cases for some buyers — of soda. Those cases of soda then either go on to another retailer, who buys them at 50 cents on the dollar, in effect laundering those $500 in monthly benefits into $250 in cash — a considerably worse rate than your typical organized-crime money launderer offers — or else they go into the local black-market economy, where they can be used as currency in such ventures as the dealing of unauthorized prescription painkillers — by “pillbillies,” as they are known at the sympathetic establishments in Florida that do so much business with Kentucky and West Virginia that the relevant interstate bus service is nicknamed the “OxyContin Express.” A woman who is intimately familiar with the local drug economy suggests that the exchange rate between sexual favors and cases of pop — some dealers will accept either — is about 1:1, meaning that the value of a woman in the local prescription-drug economy is about $12.99 at Walmart prices.

I would encourage everyone to read the rest of Williamson’s excellent article.  You can find the entire article right here.

In Appalachia, the abuse of alcohol, meth and other legal and illegal drugs is significantly higher than in the U.S. population as a whole.  In a desperate attempt to deal with the pain of their lives, many people living in the region are looking for anything that will allow them to “escape” for a little while.  The following is an excerpt from an excellent article by Chris Hedges which describes what life is like in the little town of Gary, West Virginia at this point…

Joe and I are sitting in the Tug River Health Clinic in Gary with a registered nurse who does not want her name used. The clinic handles federal and state black lung applications. It runs a program for those addicted to prescription pills. It also handles what in the local vernacular is known as “the crazy check” — payments obtained for mental illness from Medicaid or SSI — a vital source of income for those whose five years of welfare payments have run out. Doctors willing to diagnose a patient as mentally ill are important to economic survival.

“They come in and want to be diagnosed as soon as they can for the crazy check,” the nurse says. “They will insist to us they are crazy. They will tell us, ‘I know I’m not right.’ People here are very resigned. They will avoid working by being diagnosed as crazy.”

The reliance on government checks, and a vast array of painkillers and opiates, has turned towns like Gary into modern opium dens. The painkillers OxyContin, fentanyl — 80 times stronger than morphine — Lortab, as well as a wide variety of anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, are widely abused. Many top off their daily cocktail of painkillers at night with sleeping pills and muscle relaxants. And for fun, addicts, especially the young, hold “pharm parties,” in which they combine their pills in a bowl, scoop out handfuls of medication, swallow them, and wait to feel the result.

Of course this kind of thing is not just happening in the heart of Appalachia.  All over the country there are rural communities that are economically depressed.  In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, economic activity in about half of the counties in the entire nation is still below pre-recession levels…

About half of the nation’s 3,069 county economies are still short of their prerecession economic output, reflecting the uneven economic recovery, according to a new report from the National Association of Counties.

So what are our “leaders” doing to fix this?

Well, they plan to ship millions more of our good jobs overseas.

Unfortunately, I am not kidding.

Republicans in the House of Representatives are introducing “fast track” trade promotion authority legislation that will pave the way for rapid approval of the secret trade treaty that Barack Obama has been negotiating.  The following is how I described this insidious treaty in a previous article

Did you know that the Obama administration is negotiating a super secret “trade agreement” that is so sensitive that he isn’t even allowing members of Congress to see it?  The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being called the “NAFTA of the Pacific” and “NAFTA on steroids”, but the truth is that it is so much more than just a trade agreement.  This treaty has 29 chapters, but only 5 of them have to do with trade.  Most Americans don’t realize this, but this treaty will fundamentally change our laws regarding Internet freedom, health care, the trading of derivatives, copyright issues, food safety, environmental standards, civil liberties and so much more.  It will also merge the United States far more deeply into the emerging one world economic system.

Once again, our politicians are betraying the American people and millions of jobs will be lost as a result.

Not that the economy needs another reason to go downhill.  The truth is that our economic foundations have already been rotting away for quite some time.

But now the ongoing economic collapse seems to be picking up steam again.  For example, the Baltic Dry Index (a very important indicator of global economic activity) is collapsing at a rate not seen since the great financial crash of 2008

Despite ‘blaming’ the drop in the cost of dry bulk shipping on Colombian coal restrictions, it seems increasingly clear that the 40% collapse in the Baltic Dry Index since the start of the year is more than just that. While this is the worst start to a year in over 30 years, the scale of this meltdown is only matched by the total devastation that occurred in Q3 2008. Of course, the mainstream media will continue to ignore this dour index until it decides to rise once again, but for now, 9 days in a row of plunging prices is yet another canary in the global trade coalmine and suggests what inventory stacking that occurred in Q3/4 2013 is anything but sustained.

Soon economic conditions will get even worse for Appalachia and for the rest of the country.  The consequences of decades of very foolish decisions are rapidly catching up with us, and millions upon millions of Americans are going to experience immense economic pain during the years to come.

So what are things like in your area of the country right now?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

West Virginia

The Number Of Working Age Americans Without A Job Has Risen By Almost 10 Million Under Obama

Obama SmilingThat headline is not a misprint.  The number of working age Americans that do not have a job has increased by nearly 10 million since Barack Obama first entered the White House.  In January 2009, the number of “officially unemployed” workers plus the number of Americans “not in the labor force” was sitting at a grand total of 92.6 million.  Today, that number has risen to 102.2 million.  That means that the number of working age Americans that are not working has grown by close to 10 million since Barack Obama first took office.  So why does the “official unemployment rate” keep going down?  Well, it is because the federal government has been pretending that millions upon millions of unemployed workers have “left the labor force” over the past few years and do not want to work anymore.  The government says that another 347,000 workers “left the labor force” in December.  That is nearly five times larger than the 74,000 jobs that were “created” by the U.S. economy last month.  And it is important to note that more than half of those jobs were temporary jobs, and it takes well over 100,000 new jobs just to keep up with population growth each month.  So the unemployment rate should not have gone down.  If anything, it should have gone up.

In fact, if the federal government was using an honest labor force participation rate, the official unemployment rate would be far higher than it is right now.  Instead of 6.7 percent, it would be 11.5 percent, and it has stayed at about that level since the end of the last recession.

But “6.7 percent” makes Obama look so much better than “11.5 percent”, don’t you think?

The labor force participation rate is now at a 35 year low, and the only way that the federal government has been able to get the “unemployment rate” to go down is by removing hundreds of thousands of Americans out of the labor force every month.

Why don’t they just get it over with and announce that they have decided that all workers immediately leave the labor force the moment that they lose their jobs?  That way we could have an unemployment rate of “0.0 percent” and Obama could be hailed as a great economic savior.

Of course the truth is that the employment crisis in the United States is about as bad now as it was during the depths of the last recession.

If you want a much more accurate reading of the employment picture in America, just look at the employment-population ratio.  The percentage of working age Americans that actually have a job continues to stagnate at an extremely low level.  In fact, the percentage of working age Americans that are employed has stayed between 58.2 percent and 58.8 percent for 52 months in a row…

Employment-Population Ratio 2014

Does that look like an “employment recovery” to you?

Because no matter how hard I squint my eyes, I just can’t see it.

The percentage of Americans that actually have jobs should have bounced back at least a little bit by now.

But it has not happened.

And guess what?  Most people don’t know this, but the U.S. economy actually created fewer jobs in 2013 than it did in 2012.  So the momentum of job creation is actually going the wrong way.

No matter how rosy the mainstream media makes things out to be, the reality on the ground tells an entirely different story.

For example, just check out the desperation that was displayed on the streets of New York City last week…

The line wrapped nearly around an entire city block on Friday as approximately 1,500 people waited in Queens for a chance to apply for a coveted union job as painters or blasters on bridges and steel structures.

The first few people on line had been there since 1 p.m. on Tuesday when the temperature in New York City was in the single digits.

The job that those desperate workers wanted to apply for only pays $17.20 an hour.

Of course that is far from an isolated incident.  Last week, I wrote about how 1,600 workers recently applied for just 36 jobs at an ice cream plant in Maryland.

We would not be witnessing scenes like these if the unemployment rate in America was really just 6.7 percent.

An article by Phoenix Capital Research does a good job of summarizing how useless the official government numbers have become…

Since 2009, we’ve been told that things have improved. The fact of the matter is that the improvement has been largely due to accounting tricks rather than any real change in reality.

Sure you can make unemployment look better by not counting people, you can claim the economy is growing by ignoring inflation, you can argue that inflation is low because you don’t count food or energy, but the reality is that all of these arguments are grade “A” BS.

We are now five years into the “recovery.” The single and I mean SINGLE accomplishment from spending over $3 trillion has been the stock market going higher. This is a complete and total failure. Based on the business cycle alone, the economy should be roaring.

What does it say that we’ve spent this much money and accomplished so little?

The word is FAILURE.

The media is lying about the economy. They have been for years. Even the BLS now admits that its methodologies are either inefficient (read: DON’T work) or outright wrong.

The cold, hard reality of the matter is that there has not been an economic recovery in this nation.

Anyone that tries to tell you that is lying to you.

And now the next major wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching.

The U.S. national debt is on pace to more than double during the eight years of the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve has been recklessly printing up trillions of dollars.  The long-term damage that they have done to our economy is incalculable.  But despite all of those extraordinary “stimulus” measures, the percentage of Americans that are actually working has not budged.

If we were going to have a recovery, it would have happened by this point.  In fact, this is all the “recovery” that we are going to experience.

From here on out, this is about as good as things are going to get.  As bad as you may think things are now, the truth is that this is rip-roaring prosperity compared to what is coming.

I hope that you are getting prepared.

Employment Recovery? 1,600 Workers Apply For Just 36 Jobs At An Ice Cream Plant In Maryland

Ice Cream - Photo by ElinorDThe stock market may be soaring to unprecedented heights, but things just continue to get even tougher for the middle class.  In this economic environment, there is intense competition for virtually all kinds of jobs.  For example, more than 1,600 applications were recently submitted for just 36 jobs at an ice cream plant in Hagerstown, Maryland.  That means that those applying have about a 2 percent chance of being hired.  About 98 percent of the applicants will be turned away.  That is how tough things are in many areas of the country today.  It is now more than five years after the great financial crash of 2008, and the level of employment in the United States is still almost exactly where it was at during the worst moments of the last recession.  And this is just the beginning.  The next major financial crash is rapidly approaching, and once it strikes our employment crisis is going to get much, much worse.

Working at an ice cream plant does not pay very well.  But at least it beats flipping burgers or stocking shelves at Wal-Mart.  And in this economy, there is no shortage of desperate workers that are willing to take just about any job that they can find.  The following is how a Breitbart article described the flood of applications that were received for just 36 positions at an ice cream plant owned by Shenandoah Family Farms in Hagerstown, Maryland…

Thanks to persistent unemployment and low availability of low-skill jobs, Shenandoah Family Farms’ ice cream plant in Hagerstown, Maryland has received over 1,600 applicants for a grand total of 36 jobs. Many of those applicants are former workers at the Good Humor plant that was bought by Shenandoah Family Farms. “You’d think that after 20-some-years working someplace at least somebody would think you area a good person, that you’d show up on time every day, and that would be worth something,” Luther Brooks, a 50-year-old former worker at the plant told the Washington Post. “I can’t get nothing. I’ve tried.”

Anyone that believes that the economic crisis is “over” is just being delusional.  It may be “over” for the boys and girls that work on Wall Street, but even their good times are only temporary.

Of course most Americans are not fooled by the propaganda being put out by the mainstream media.  According to a recent CNN poll, 70 percent of all Americans believe that “the economy is generally in poor shape”.

And according to another survey, the economy is still the #1 concern for American voters by a good margin and unemployment is still the #2 concern for American voters by a good margin.

In other words, “It’s the economy, stupid!

The American people can see that mid-wage jobs are disappearing and that the middle class is being systematically eviscerated.  The following is a short excerpt from a recent Business Insider article

A startling number of middle-class jobs may be headed toward extinction.

More than any other job class, mid-level positions have struggled to recover from the recession, and only a quarter of jobs created in the past three years are categorized as mid-wage. There are high-skilled professional jobs that require college degrees and low-skilled service jobs for less educated workers, but the middle is getting squeezed.

As mid-wage jobs disappear, they are being replaced by low wage jobs.  As I mentioned yesterday, one recent study found that about 60 percent of the jobs that have been “created” since the end of the last recession pay $13.83 or less an hour.

And this is just the beginning of the decline of the middle class.  Another great financial crisis is rapidly approaching, and once it arrives things are going to get much worse than they are right now.

A number of very prominent experts believe that this next great financial crisis could begin in 2014.  For example, in a recent article entitled “Top Ten Trends 2014: A Year of Extremes“, Gerald Celente warned that “an economic shock wave” could hit the United States by the middle of the year.  Here are some excerpts from that article…

-“In 33 years of forecasting trends, the Trends Research Institute has never seen a new year that will witness severe economic hardship and social unrest on one hand, and deep philosophic enlightenment and personal enrichment on the other. A series of dynamic socioeconomic and transformative geopolitical trend points are aligning in 2014 to ring in the worst and best of times.”

-“Such unforeseeable factors aside, we forecast that around March, or by the end of the second quarter of 2014, an economic shock wave will rattle the world equity markets.”

-“Nearly half of the requests for emergency assistance to stave off hunger or homelessness comes from people with full-time jobs. As government safety nets are pulled out from under them – as they will continue to be for the foreseeable future – the citizens of Slavelandia will have no recourse but action.”

You can read the rest of that article right here.

And according to the Wall Street Journal, United-ICAP chief market technician Walter Zimmerman in convinced that 2014 will mark the beginning of a massive stock market decline.  In fact, he believes that over the next couple of years it could fall by more than 70 percent…

In what may be the bearish call to end all bearish calls, one technician believes 2014 will be the year of “major reversals,” with the Dow Jones Industrial Average expected to start a two-year decline that could eventually take it down more than 70% to below 5000.

If his forecast is correct, it will make what happened in 2008 look like a Sunday picnic…

“Based on our longer-term time cycles the present stock market rally must be considered the bubble to end all bubbles,” Mr. Zimmerman wrote in a note to clients.

He doesn’t believe the Dow Industrials will hit a long-term cycle low until 2016, somewhere in the 5770 to 4650 range. The Dow hasn’t seen those levels, which are 65% to 72% below current prices, since late-1995 to mid-1996.

So what do you think the rest of 2014 will bring?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

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