Israel and Hezbollah are at war. On top of everything else that is going on in the world, now we have a new war in the Middle East, and nobody is quite certain what is going to happen next. Israel has been preparing for this moment for more than 8 years. So has Hezbollah. According to some reports, Hezbollah has amassed an arsenal of 50,000 rockets since the end of the Hezbollah-Israel war in 2006. If all-out warfare does erupt, we could potentially see tens of thousands of missiles rain down into an area not too much larger than the state of New Jersey. And of course the Israeli military is also much more sophisticated and much more powerful than it was back in 2006. If cooler heads do not prevail, we could be on the verge of witnessing a very bloody war. But right now nobody seems to be in the mood to back down. Hezbollah is absolutely fuming over an airstrike earlier this month that killed six fighters and a prominent Iranian general. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel is “prepared to act powerfully on all fronts” in response to a Hezbollah ambush that killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded seven. Just such an incident is what sparked the war between the two sides back in 2006. But this time, a conflict between Israel and Hezbollah could spark a full-blown regional war.
Earlier this month, Israel launched a surprise assault against a group of Hezbollah fighters that Israel believed was planning to conduct terror attacks inside their borders.
But in addition to killing six Hezbollah fighters, a very important Iranian general was also killed. Needless to say, Iran is furious…
Iran has told the United States that Israel should expect consequences for an attack on the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights that killed an Iranian general, a senior official said on Tuesday.
Revolutionary Guards General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi died alongside six fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah group in the January 18 attack on forces supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war.
And we didn’t have to wait too long for a response. An IDF convoy was hit by anti-tank missiles near the Lebanon border. Two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven were wounded. The following is how the Jerusalem Post described the attack.
The terrorists launched five or six anti-tank missiles from a distance of at least four kilometers from their targets, striking the vehicles as they drove two kilometers from the international border.
In the heavy Hezbollah ambush, a military D-Max vehicle containing a company commander and his driver from the Givati Brigade was the first vehicle hit.
This prompted all of those inside an IDF jeep behind it to quickly evacuate their vehicle before it, too, was hit and destroyed with missiles.
Just over an hour after that attack, mortar rounds struck an Israeli military position on Mt. Hermon.
In response to those strikes, the Israeli military hit back at Hezbollah positions on the other side of the Lebanese border…
Israel struck back with combined aerial and ground strikes on Hezbollah operational positions along the border, the military said.
At least 50 artillery shells were fired at the villages of Majidiyeh, Abbasiyeh and Kfar Chouba, according to Lebanese officials.
But Israel is probably not done.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promising a “disproportionate” response to the Hezbollah attacks, and he says that Hezbollah should consider what Israel recently did to Hamas before taking any more aggressive action…
“To all those trying to challenge us on the northern border, I suggest looking at what happened here, not far from the city of Sderot, in the Gaza strip. Hamas absorbed the hardest blow since it was founded last summer, and the IDF is ready to act with force on any front.”
If things continue to escalate, we might not just be talking about another Hezbollah-Israel war.
In the south, tensions between Israel and Hamas remain near all-time highs. In the event of a full-blown war, Hamas probably could be easily convinced to join the fray. And if Hamas jumps in, the rest of the Palestinians might not be far behind.
In addition, ISIS now has territory near the border with Israel…
Because of the strategic importance of the terrain, Iran and Hezbollah have been building infrastructure there for some time. But their interest in the Golan skyrocketed in December.
The reason: ISIS gained a foothold there when the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade of the Free Syrian Army “defected” from the de facto alliance with the U.S.-Arab coalition against Assad, and declared its allegiance to ISIS. The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade had been one of the most active rebel factions holding territory directly adjacent to the “area of separation” between Syria and Israel administered (in theory) by the UN. In particular, it has held the southern line of confrontation with Syrian regime forces, in the transit corridor leading to the Quneitra border crossing.
Needless to say, ISIS would be extremely interested in any conflict with Israel.
And of course there are all of the other surrounding Islamic nations that are not too fond of Israel either.
The truth is that the Middle East is a perpetual tinderbox. One spark could set the entire region on fire.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama continues to do all that he can to undermine Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The animosity between the two is well known, and now an “Obama army” of political operatives has been sent to Israel to help defeat Netanyahu in the upcoming elections.
The “leader” of this “Obama army” is Jeremy Bird, who was the national field director for Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign. But he has plenty of company. Just check out the following list that was compiled by WND…
Besides Bird, the 270 Strategies team includes the following former Obama staffers:
- Mitch Steward, a 270 Strategies founding partner who helped the Obama campaign build what the U.K. Guardian called “a historic ground operation that will provide the model for political campaigns in America and around the world for years to come.”
- Mark Beatty, a founding partner who served as deputy battleground states director for the Obama campaign. He had primary responsibility for Obama’s election plans for the battleground states.
- Marlon Marshall, a founding partner at 270 Strategies who joins the team after holding several key positions in national Democratic politics, most recently as deputy national field director for the 2012 Obama campaign.
- Betsy Hoover, a founding partner who served as director of digital organizing on the Obama campaign.
- Meg Ansara, who served as national regional director for Obama for America where she was responsible for overseeing the 2012 programs in the Midwest and southern states.
- Bridget Halligan, who served as the engagement program manager on the digital team of the 2012 Obama campaign.
- Kate Catherall, who served as Florida deputy field director for Obama’s re-election campaign.
- Alex Lofton, who most recently served as the GOTV director of Cleveland, Ohio, for the 2012 Obama campaign.
- Martha Patzer, the firm’s vice president who served as deputy email director at Obama for America.
- Jesse Boateng, who served as the Florida voter registration director for Obama’s re-election campaign.
- Ashley Bryant, who served most recently as the Ohio digital director for the 2012 Obama campaign.
- Max Clermont, who formerly served as a regional field director in Florida for Obama’s re-election campaign.
- Max Wood, who served as a deputy data director in Florida for the 2012 Obama campaign.
As the first month of 2015 wraps up, our world is becoming increasingly unstable.
In addition to the oil crash, the collapse of the euro, looming stock market troubles, civil war in Ukraine, tensions with Russia, an economic slowdown in China and imploding economies all over South America, now we have more war in the Middle East.
And if lots of missiles start flying back and forth between Israel and Hezbollah, it could potentially spark the bloodiest war in that region that any of us have ever seen.
So what do you think about the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah? Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…
When the stock market starts to behave like a roller coaster, that is a sign that a major move to the downside is right around the corner. As I have stated repeatedly, when the market is very calm it tends to go up. But when the waters start getting really choppy, that is a clear indication that stocks are about to plummet. In early 2015, volatility has returned to Wall Street in a big way. At one point on Tuesday, the Dow was up more than 300 points. But then the bottom dropped out. From the peak on Tuesday, the Dow plunged nearly 700 points in less than 30 hours before recovering more than 100 points at the end of the day. The Dow has now experienced the longest losing streak that we have seen in 3 months, but that is not that big of a deal. Of much greater concern is the huge price swings that we have been seeing. Remember, the three largest single day stock market increases in history were right in the middle of the financial crisis of 2008. So if stocks go up 400 points tomorrow that is NOT a good sign. What we really need is a string of days when stocks move less than 100 points in either direction. If stocks keep making dramatic moves up and dramatic moves down, history tells us that it is only a matter of time before they collapse. Any student of stock market history knows that what we are witnessing right now is exactly how markets behave right before they crash.
Examine the chart below very carefully. It is a chart of the CBOE Volatility Index from 2006 to 2008. As you can see, volatility was very low as stocks soared during 2006. Then things started to get a bit choppy in 2007, and investors should have recognized this as a warning sign. Finally, you can see that the VIX absolutely skyrocketed during the financial crisis of 2008…
Looking back, it seems so obvious.
So why aren’t more people alarmed this time around?
As CNN is reporting, the VIX is up almost 20 percent so far in 2015…
Volatility has returned with a vengeance this January. The Dow has been moving up or down by at least 100 points nearly every day this year.
CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index is showing signs of Extreme Fear again. And a volatility gauge known as the VIX, which is one of the components in our index, is up nearly 20% so far this year.
Meanwhile, there are lots of other signs of trouble on the horizon as well.
For example, the price of copper got absolutely hammered on Wednesday. As I write this, it has fallen more than 5 percent and it has not been this low in more than five years.
In financial circles, it is referred to as “Dr. Copper” because it is such a valuable indicator regarding where the global economy is heading next.
For example, in 2008 the price of copper was close to $4.00 before plummeting to below $1.50 by the end of that year as the global financial system fell apart.
Now the price of copper is plunging again, and many analysts are becoming extremely concerned…
One growing global worry is the steep decline in copper, which is used in many products and is often viewed as good gauge on how China is doing. The price of copper hit its lowest price since 2009 on Wednesday at $2.46. Copper is down nearly 7% this week alone.
Meanwhile, the recession (some call it a depression) in Europe continues to get even worse, and the euro continues to plunge.
On Wednesday, the euro declined to the lowest level that we have seen in nine years, and Goldman Sachs is now saying that the euro and the U.S. dollar could be at parity by the end of next year.
That is amazing considering the fact that it took $1.60 to get one euro back in July 2008.
Personally, I am fully convinced that Goldman Sachs is right on this one. I believe that the euro is going to all-time lows that we have never seen before, and this is going to create massive problems for the eurozone.
With all of these signs of trouble out there, the smart money is rapidly pulling their money out of stocks and putting it into government bonds. This usually happens when a crisis is looming. It is called a “flight to safety”, and it pushes government bond yields down.
On Wednesday, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries fell beneath the important 1.8 percent barrier. We will probably see it go even lower in the months ahead.
As the rest of the world economy crumbles, the remainder of the globe is looking to America to be the rock in the storm. For example, the following quote that I found today comes from a British news source…
‘The global economy is running on a single engine… the American one,’ the World Bank’s chief economist, Kaushik Basu, said. ‘This does not make for a rosy outlook for the world.’
Well, they may not want to rely on us too much, because there are plenty of signs that our economy is slowing down too. For example, we learned today that December retail sales were down 0.9% from a year ago, and this is being called “an unmitigated disaster“. Americans were supposed to be taking the money that they were saving on gasoline and spending it, but that apparently is not happening.
Back on October 29th, I wrote an article entitled “From This Day Forward, We Will Watch How The Stock Market Performs Without The Fed’s Monetary Heroin“. In that article, I warned that the end of quantitative easing could have dire consequences for the financial system as bubbles created by the Fed began to burst.
And that is precisely what is happening. In fact, many analysts are now pinpointing the end of QE as the exact moment when our current troubles began. For instance, check out this excerpt from a CNBC article that was published on Wednesday…
“Stuff happens when QE ends,” said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group. “It’s no coincidence that the market started going into a higher volatility mode, it’s no coincidence that the decline in commodity prices accelerated, it’s no coincidence that the yield curve started flattening when QE ended.”
Indeed, the increase in volatility and its effect on prices across the capital market spectrum was closely tied to the Fed ending the third round of QE in October.
We are moving into a time of great danger for Wall Street and for the global economy as a whole.
If we continue to see a tremendous amount of volatility, history tells us that it is only a matter of time before the markets implode.
Hopefully you will be ready when that happens.
What do we need to do in order to prepare for the coming economic collapse? Are there practical steps that we can take right now that will help us and our families survive the economic depression that is approaching? As the publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog, I get asked these kinds of questions a lot. Once people become convinced that an economic collapse is coming, they want to know what they should do. And so in this article I am going to share some key pieces of advice from some of the top experts in the entire country. If you are not convinced that economic disaster is on the way, this article might not be for you. Instead, I would encourage you to go to my website where you will find more than 1,200 articles that set out the case for the coming economic collapse in excruciating detail. For those of you that are interested in getting prepared, I apologize in advance for the outline format of this article. To examine each of these points in detail would take an entire book. In fact, I am the co-author of a book that will soon be published that discusses many of these things in great depth. But you don’t have to wait for a book to get prepared. Mostly, it comes down to common sense. In this article, I share 89 common sense tips that will help you get prepared for the coming economic depression. Hopefully a lot of people will find these to be very helpful.
This first set of tips are 11 things that I strongly encourage my readers to do…
#1 Have An Emergency Fund – This is so important that I wrote an entire article about this recently.
#2 Don’t Put All Of Your Eggs Into One Basket – In addition to having an emergency fund, you will also want to have gold, silver and other hard assets. It is also a very good idea to keep a limited amount of cash at home in case you can’t access an ATM during a major emergency of some sort.
#3 Reduce Your Expenses And Get Out Of Debt – During a time of crisis you want to be as “lean and mean” as possible. If you simplify your life and reduce your debt load now, you will be in much better shape when the next economic depression does arrive.
#4 Move Your Money Away From Unsafe Investments – When the financial world falls apart, you don’t want your finances to be exposed. Markets tend to go down much faster than they go up, and during the next great financial crisis millions of Americans that have their life savings in stocks and bonds are going to get totally wiped out.
#5 Store Food And Supplies – Your dollars will never stretch farther than they do right now. You probably will not need emergency food and supplies in the short-term, but the truth is that none of us ever knows when a major emergency will strike. During 2014, my wife and I felt more of an urgency to stock up then ever before, and I hope that people are using this brief period of relative stability to do what they can to get prepared.
#6 Learn To Grow Your Own Food – Anything that you can do to become more independent of the system is a good thing. This includes growing your own food. And the truth is that some of the most expensive items in the grocery store these days are fresh fruits and vegetables.
#7 Defending Yourself And Your Family – As our world become increasingly unstable, people are going to become a lot more desperate. And desperate people do desperate things. You are going to need to have a plan for that.
#8 Move Away From The Big Cities If Possible – For a lot of people that are dependent on their current jobs, this is simply not possible right now. But if it is possible for you, this is something that I strongly recommend that you think about. Being stuck in the middle of a major city is not going to be a good place to be in the years ahead.
#9 Be Ready To Bug Out – There may come a time when you are forced to evacuate from your current location. This may happen with very short notice. If this ever does happen to you, the key will be to be prepared for it.
#10 Build A Community – Your neighbors and close friends can be an invaluable resource. A cord of multiple threads is not easily broken, and if you have people that you can depend upon during a crisis that can make a world of difference.
#11 Have A Back-Up Plan And Be Flexible – Mike Tyson once aptly observed that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. The years ahead are going to require a great deal of flexibility, and you may find that the plans that you have made need to be altered. So don’t get fixated on just one approach.
When there is a major emergency, some of the most simple items suddenly become some of the most important.
The following are 11 items that I recommend that every household have on hand…
– an axe
– a can opener
– battery-powered radio
– extra batteries
– lighters or matches
– fire extinguisher
– sewing kit
– duct tape
And here are about a dozen more key items that should be on your list from Survival Mom…
- Lightsticks. You can pick up one of these every time you wander into a Home Depot. They don’t need batteries and can be hung around the neck with a string making it easier to spot everyone in your party when it gets dark. An alternative is the UVPaqlite, which never needs batteries.
- Wool socks and sweaters. People have literally frozen to death wearing their layers of cotton knit tees and hoodies. For true survival conditions, nothing beats wool.
- Upholstery needles and thread. What if a sleeping bag or tent rips and you have no way of mending it?
- Roll of quarters. Handy for phone calls, although payphones aren’t as common as they used to be, and laundromats, but if you put it in a sock and wield it like a sling, you have a handy-dandy weapon! If the quarters are pre-1965 and 90% silver, you have a whole new type of currency.
- Pencils. Forget the pens. They can run out of ink and freeze in cold weather. With a pocket knife, you’ll always have a sharp pencil.
- Super glue. Professional hockey players always have this on hand to seal up small cuts, and the glue itself is harmless. Unless you get it in your eye, like I did. But that’s a story for a different type of post!
- Rubber bands. String just doesn’t cut it when what you really need is a rubber band
- Tampons in a cardboard tube. Did you know a tampon can be fit snugly into a bullet wound? Guys on the battlefield carry these with them. Just be aware that the blood in the wound will begin to clot. Leave it to a medical professional to remove the tampon from the wound. They’re also good for kindling.
- Paracord belt. It’s an accessory and survival tool in one!
- Waterproof wrist watch. Makes perfect sense. I had just never thought of it.
- Animal repellant trash bags. Use these when you’re camping and animals will stay the heck away from your trash.
- Safety pins.
- Dental floss. Besides helping to keep your teeth clean, it makes sturdy thread for mending.
But don’t just get focused on acquiring things.
Some of the most important elements of preparation involve things that we need to do for ourselves.
Acclaimed survival expert James Wesley Rawles has put together a “personal list” of things that everyone should think about before a crisis strikes. A lot of these things are topics that “preppers” never seem to write about…
Prescription and nonprescription medications.
Keep dentistry up to date.
Any elective surgery that you’ve been postponing
Work off that gut.
Stay in shape.
Back strength and health—particularly important, given the heavy manual tasks required for self-sufficiency.
Educate yourself on survival topics, and practice them. For example, even if you don’t presently live at your retreat, you should plant a vegetable garden every year. It is better to learn through experience and make mistakes now, when the loss of crop is an annoyance rather than a crucial event.
“Comfort” items to help get through high stress times. (Books, games, CDs, chocolates, etc.)
If you have a serious illness or disease, that is going to need to be one of your top priorities when making preparations for the coming crisis.
This next tip comes from an excellent article that Dave Hodges published recently…
If you or your family has a chronic health condition, it is critical that you have 6 months to a year in medicine. Also, you should research natural alternatives to treatment for health conditions in case you are not able to meet this goal due to the inability to obtain prescriptions. Don’t forget to obtain some pain medication and antibiotics in case of unforeseen emergencies.
Probably one of the most popular topics for preppers to write about is food storage.
But those that are new to prepping are often very confused about how to get started.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. If you start out by focusing on staples that you eat all the time, you should be in great shape. The following are some recommendations about food storage that Pat Henry of the Prepper Journal has shared…
- Rice – First off, buy a 50lb. bag of rice. These contain 504 servings and I don’t know too many people who won’t eat rice. It is simple to cook and stores for years if you keep it cool and dry. This bag at Sam’s costs about $19 now.
- Beans – Next buy a bag of dry beans. This will check off the Beans part of your Beans, Bullets and Band-Aids list. A good size bag is about $5 and makes 126 servings. Buy two if you think your family would like them.
- Canned meat – Cans are great for fruits and vegetables and anyone can find something they will eat. For canned meat, I recommend tuna or chicken because it tastes a heck of a lot better than Spam and you can easily mix that into your rice. For the meat you will need approximately 35 cans. Each can has about 3 servings and this will be the most costly, but they last over a year usually and your family probably eats chicken or tuna on a semi-regular basis anyway so restocking this should be simple.
- Canned Vegetables – you will need about 40 cans of vegetables and again this can be whatever your family will eat. Expect to pay around a dollar each so $40 for veggies to last your family a month.
- Canned Fruit – again, simple fruits that your family will eat. These can even be fruit cocktail if that is the safest thing. At Costco they have the #10 cans of fruit like pears or apple slices and each of these has 25 servings. 5 of these will cost about $25 and give your family their daily dose of fruit.
- Oatmeal – Good old-fashioned oatmeal is simple to cook and store. A normal container has 30 servings each so purchase about 4 of these and your family won’t starve for breakfast. At $2 each that is about $8 for breakfast for a month for a family of four. Could you exchange Pop-tarts? Maybe, but I find oatmeal more filling and less likely to be snacked on.
- Honey- Honey is a miracle food really as it will never go bad if you keep it dry and cool. Honey will last you forever and Sam’s has large containers that hold 108 servings. You can use this in place of sugar to satisfy the sweet tooth. Honey even has medicinal properties and you can use this to add some flavor to your oatmeal for breakfast.
- Salt – Same as honey, salt will never go bad if you keep it dry and helps the flavor of anything. You can buy a big box of salt for around $1 and that will last your whole family a month easily.
- Vitamins – I recommend getting some multivitamins to augment your nutrition in the case of a disaster or emergency. Granted, rice and beans aren’t the best and you won’t be getting as many nutrients from canned fruit and vegetables so the vitamins help to fill in the gaps and keep you healthy. One big bottle costs about $8. You will need to get a kids version too if you have children small enough that they can’t or won’t swallow a big multivitamin.
And as I mentioned above, another key to getting prepared is self-defense. If you make all the preparations in the world, but somebody comes along and steals them from you, they won’t end up doing you any good.
The following are some basic tips about home security from prepping expert Todd Sepulveda…
Front Door – Your front door is a layer. But it shouldn’t be your only layer. Besides reinforcing the strike plate with 2 inch screws, you should have a solid deadbolt. Another layer could be a storm door with a lock or even burglar bars. A good latch is valuable too! If you want to add even more layers, utilizing a security door bar is a good idea. But you don’t only want to make sure that your front door is securely layered. Take some time to layer all the doors in your home.
Windows – Every window has a lock. But you can add a layer by including sliding window locks for about $5. Other options would include tint or blinds, which would make it harder for someone to look inside your house.
Burglar Alarm – A burglar alarm is a serious layer. Alarms can be monitored by an alarm company or they can be self-monitored. Self-monitored systems have greatly advanced and will even allow you to view your home on your smartphone.
Dogs – A dog or dogs can be a great layer, especially if they bark. My dogs alert me the minute someone is in the front of the yard. They run and bark at the door and don’t stop until I open it. Outside dogs are a layer to your perimeter. A big dog on the other side of the fence will make any criminal think twice.
Outside Lights – Lights that are mounted on the outside of your home, especially ones that are triggered by motion sensors are a must! Roaches run when you turn on the lights! Someone who is watching your house will not want to approach it if they know the lights are going to draw attention to them.
Outside Landscaping – Bushes can be a layer around windows. It is important that you don’t create an environment that will create a hiding place for someone to lay in waiting. Make sure that the bushes you choose to plant are thorny and cause a lot of discomfort if someone wants to go through them.
Personal Defense – A firearm is a layer that you would want to have if needed. If you want to use something that is not so deadly, you can always pick up a can of ColdSteel Inferno to spray in someone’s face. Having a few of these cans hidden in different parts of the house is a good idea.
Safe Room – A safe room would be a last ditch layer. Some people are putting them into their homes. If this is a scenario you want to take, you should research the necessary components for a “safe” safe room.
Neighborhood Watch – Although a Neighborhood Watch isn’t just focused on your home, it is a layer that could cause the bad guys to go looking in a different neighborhood altogether. Neighborhoods that have a Neighborhood Watch usually post signs in the entrances of their neighborhood.
Neighbors – Even if you don’t have a Neighborhood Watch, you should get to know your neighbors, especially those pesky ones that stay in everyone’s business…because they are going to keep a lookout! You gotta take some bad with the good!
Street Lights – Sticking with your neighborhood, it would be a good idea to immediately report any street lights that are out to the city or county that manages them. Again, light causes the roaches to run for cover!
Signs – Don’t underestimate the power of a cheap sign. A sign on a fence that reads “Beware of Dog” or a Security company sign on the front lawn somewhere will cause the bad guys to think twice before attempting to break into your house.
If you do need to leave your home during a crisis, you should have a “bug out bag” ready for each member of your family.
The following are 7 key items that Survival Cache recommends including in each bug out bag…
5. First Aid Kit
6. Basic Gear
Finally, it is important to remember that nobody is perfect and that everyone makes mistakes.
The following are 14 common mistakes that Backdoor Survival says a lot of preppers make…
1. Failure to inventory stored food supplies
2. Failure to perform a risk analysis and prepping for the most likely disruptive events first
3. Preparing mostly to bug out rather than bugging in
4. Failure to evacuate at just the right time
5. Having the gear but not knowing how to use it
6. Underestimating other humans as a threat
7. Spending your entire budget on gear instead of on food, water, and medical supplies
8. Lacking the knowledge to properly store your food supplies
9. Buying gear and supplies while ignoring the need to develop skills
10. Relying only on yourself and ignoring like-minded members of your community
11. Just because someone else does something does not mean that you should do it to
12. Falling victim to prepper procrastination
13. Obsessing about being behind the curve-ball
14. Forgetting that there is a life beyond prepping
Are there any additions that you would make to this list of tips?
Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…
Do you know what an “extremist” is? In the wake of the horrible terror attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in France, Barack Obama is speaking very boldly about the need to win the war against “extremists”, and he has announced plans to host a major global summit on “extremism” next month. And on the surface that sounds great. But precisely how are we supposed to determine whether someone is an “extremist” or not? What criteria should we use? As you will see below, your definition of an “extremist” may be far, far different from the definition that Barack Obama is using. When you do a Google search, you will find that an “extremist” is defined as “a person who holds extreme or fanatical political or religious views, especially one who resorts to or advocates extreme action.” According to Wikipedia, “extremism” is “an ideology (particularly in politics or religion), considered to be far outside the mainstream attitudes of a society or to violate common moral standards. Extremism can take many forms, including political, religious and economic.” Please notice that neither of those definitions uses the word violence. In this day and age, you can be considered an “extremist” simply based on what you believe, and as you will see later in this article there are now tens of millions of Americans that are considered to be “extremists” and “potential terrorists” according to official U.S. government documents.
When you use the word “extremist”, you may have in your mind a picture of ISIS fighters or the terrorists from the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
But for elitists such as Barack Obama, the word “extremist” has a much broader meaning. In recent years, it has become a code word for those that do not have an “enlightened” view of the world. If your views on politics, religion or social issues are extremely different from the liberal, progressive views of “the mainstream” (as defined by the mainstream media and by “mainstream” politicians such as Barack Obama), then they consider you to be an extremist.
Early in the presidency of George W. Bush, we were told that Islamic terrorists were the enemy. And so most of the country got behind the idea of the War on Terrorism. But over the years that has morphed into a War on Extremism. In fact, the Obama administration has gone so far as to remove almost all references to Islam from government terror training materials…
Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole confirmed on Wednesday that the Obama administration was pulling back all training materials used for the law enforcement and national security communities, in order to eliminate all references to Islam that some Muslim groups have claimed are offensive.
“I recently directed all components of the Department of Justice to re-evaluate their training efforts in a range of areas, from community outreach to national security,” Cole told a panel at the George Washington University law school.
Now, much of the focus in law enforcement training materials is on “domestic extremists”. We are being told that “domestic extremism” is just as great a threat to our national security as terror groups overseas are.
But exactly who are these “domestic extremists”?
Well, the truth is that you may be one of them.
I want to share with you a list that I have shared in a couple of previous articles. It is a list of 72 types of Americans that are considered to be “extremists” or “potential terrorists” in official U.S. government documents. This list will really give you a good idea of what Barack Obama means when he uses the word “extremist”. Each of these 72 items is linked, so if you would like to go see the original source document for yourself, just click on the link. As you can see, this list potentially includes most of the country…
1. Those that talk about “individual liberties”
2. Those that advocate for states’ rights
3. Those that want “to make the world a better place”
4. “The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule”
5. Those that are interested in “defeating the Communists”
6. Those that believe “that the interests of one’s own nation are separate from the interests of other nations or the common interest of all nations”
7. Anyone that holds a “political ideology that considers the state to be unnecessary, harmful,or undesirable”
8. Anyone that possesses an “intolerance toward other religions”
9. Those that “take action to fight against the exploitation of the environment and/or animals”
13. “The Patriot Movement”
14. “Opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians”
15. Members of the Family Research Council
16. Members of the American Family Association
17. Those that believe that Mexico, Canada and the United States “are secretly planning to merge into a European Union-like entity that will be known as the ‘North American Union’”
18. Members of the American Border Patrol/American Patrol
19. Members of the Federation for American Immigration Reform
20. Members of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition
21. Members of the Christian Action Network
22. Anyone that is “opposed to the New World Order”
23. Anyone that is engaged in “conspiracy theorizing”
24. Anyone that is opposed to Agenda 21
25. Anyone that is concerned about FEMA camps
26. Anyone that “fears impending gun control or weapons confiscations”
27. The militia movement
28. The sovereign citizen movement
29. Those that “don’t think they should have to pay taxes”
30. Anyone that “complains about bias”
31. Anyone that “believes in government conspiracies to the point of paranoia”
32. Anyone that “is frustrated with mainstream ideologies”
33. Anyone that “visits extremist websites/blogs”
34. Anyone that “establishes website/blog to display extremist views”
35. Anyone that “attends rallies for extremist causes”
36. Anyone that “exhibits extreme religious intolerance”
37. Anyone that “is personally connected with a grievance”
38. Anyone that “suddenly acquires weapons”
39. Anyone that “organizes protests inspired by extremist ideology”
40. “Militia or unorganized militia”
41. “General right-wing extremist”
42. Citizens that have “bumper stickers” that are patriotic or anti-U.N.
43. Those that refer to an “Army of God”
44. Those that are “fiercely nationalistic (as opposed to universal and international in orientation)”
45. Those that are “anti-global”
46. Those that are “suspicious of centralized federal authority”
47. Those that are “reverent of individual liberty”
48. Those that “believe in conspiracy theories”
49. Those that have “a belief that one’s personal and/or national ‘way of life’ is under attack”
50. Those that possess “a belief in the need to be prepared for an attack either by participating in paramilitary preparations and training or survivalism”
51. Those that would “impose strict religious tenets or laws on society (fundamentalists)”
52. Those that would “insert religion into the political sphere”
53. Anyone that would “seek to politicize religion”
54. Those that have “supported political movements for autonomy”
55. Anyone that is “anti-abortion”
56. Anyone that is “anti-Catholic”
57. Anyone that is “anti-nuclear”
58. “Rightwing extremists”
59. “Returning veterans”
60. Those concerned about “illegal immigration”
61. Those that “believe in the right to bear arms”
62. Anyone that is engaged in “ammunition stockpiling”
63. Anyone that exhibits “fear of Communist regimes”
64. “Anti-abortion activists”
65. Those that are against illegal immigration
66. Those that talk about “the New World Order” in a “derogatory” manner
67. Those that have a negative view of the United Nations
68. Those that are opposed “to the collection of federal income taxes”
69. Those that supported former presidential candidates Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr
70. Those that display the Gadsden Flag (“Don’t Tread On Me”)
71. Those that believe in “end times” prophecies
72. Evangelical Christians
Do you fit into any of those categories?
Personally, I fit into a couple dozen of them.
That is why alarm bells should go off whenever Barack Obama speaks of the need to crack down on “extremism”.
If Barack Obama wants to denounce Islamic terror, he should do so. But because of his extreme political correctness, he goes out of his way to avoid any connection between Islam and terror. Instead, he speaks of the need to recognize “Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings” and he insists that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
Meanwhile, our liberties and freedoms are being eroded a little bit more with each passing day. In the name of fighting “terrorism” or “extremism”, our government is constructing a Big Brother police state control grid all around us. I like the way that Ron Paul described what is happening to us just the other day…
If Americans were honest with themselves they would acknowledge that the Republic is no more. We now live in a police state. If we do not recognize and resist this development, freedom and prosperity for all Americans will continue to deteriorate. All liberties in America today are under siege.
It didn’t happen overnight. It took many years of neglect for our liberties to be given away so casually for a promise of security from the politicians. The tragic part is that the more security was promised — physical and economic — the less liberty was protected.
With cradle-to-grave welfare protecting all citizens from any mistakes and a perpetual global war on terrorism, which a majority of Americans were convinced was absolutely necessary for our survival, our security and prosperity has been sacrificed.
It was all based on lies and ignorance. Many came to believe that their best interests were served by giving up a little freedom now and then to gain a better life.
The trap was set. At the beginning of a cycle that systematically undermines liberty with delusions of easy prosperity, the change may actually seem to be beneficial to a few. But to me that’s like excusing embezzlement as a road to leisure and wealth — eventually payment and punishment always come due. One cannot escape the fact that a society’s wealth cannot be sustained or increased without work and productive effort. Yes, some criminal elements can benefit for a while, but reality always sets in.
Reality is now setting in for America and for that matter for most of the world. The piper will get his due even if “the children” have to suffer. The deception of promising “success” has lasted for quite a while. It was accomplished by ever-increasing taxes, deficits, borrowing, and printing press money. In the meantime the policing powers of the federal government were systematically and significantly expanded. No one cared much, as there seemed to be enough “gravy” for the rich, the poor, the politicians, and the bureaucrats.
The country that our forefathers founded is dying.
Now, individuals and organizations that attempt to restore the values that our founders once believed in so strongly are regarded as dangerous “extremists” that need to be watched carefully.
Sadly, most Americans don’t even realize what is happening to this nation. As long as they are fed a constant diet of mindless entertainment, most Americans are perfectly content to let “the experts” do their thinking for them.
We are steamrolling toward oblivion, and most of the country is dead asleep.
So is there any hope for us? Feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…
If you do not believe that we are heading directly toward another major financial crisis, you need to read this article. So many of the exact same patterns that preceded the great financial collapse of 2008 are happening again right before our very eyes. History literally appears to be repeating, but most Americans seem absolutely oblivious to what is going on. The mainstream media and our politicians are promising them that everything is going to be okay somehow, and that seems to be good enough for most people. But the signs that another massive financial crisis is on the horizon are everywhere. All you have to do is open up your eyes and look at them.
Bill Gross, considered by many to be the number one authority on government bonds on the entire planet, made headlines all over the world on Tuesday when he released his January Investment Outlook. I don’t know if we have ever seen Gross be more negative about a new year than he is about 2015. For example, just consider this statement…
“When the year is done, there will be minus signs in front of returns for many asset classes. The good times are over.”
And this is how he ended the letter…
And so that is why – at some future date – at some future Ides of March or May or November 2015, asset returns in many categories may turn negative. What to consider in such a strange new world? High-quality assets with stable cash flows. Those would include Treasury and high-quality corporate bonds, as well as equities of lightly levered corporations with attractive dividends and diversified revenues both operationally and geographically. With moments of liquidity having already been experienced in recent months, 2015 may see a continuing round of musical chairs as riskier asset categories become less and less desirable.
Debt supercycles in the process of reversal are not favorable events for future investment returns. Father Time in 2015 is not the babe with a top hat in our opening cartoon. He is the grumpy old codger looking forward to his almost inevitable “Ides” sometime during the next 12 months. Be cautious and content with low positive returns in 2015. The time for risk taking has passed.
So why are Gross and so many other financial experts being so “negative” right now?
It is because they can see what is happening.
They can see the same patterns that we saw in early 2008 unfolding again right in front of us. I wanted to put these patterns in a single article so that they will be easy to share with people. The following are 10 key events that preceded the last financial crisis that are happening again right now…
#1 A really bad start to the year for the stock market. During the first three trading days of 2015, the S&P 500 was down a total of 2.73 percent. There are only two times in history when it has declined by more than three percent during the first three trading days of a year. Those years were 2000 and 2008, and in both years we witnessed enormous stock market declines.
#2 Very choppy financial market behavior. This is something that I discussed yesterday. In general, calm markets tend to go up. When markets get choppy, they tend to go down. For example, the chart that I have posted below shows how the Dow Jones Industrial Average behaved from the beginning of 2006 to the end of 2008. As you can see, the Dow was very calm as it rose throughout 2006 and most of 2007, but it got very choppy as 2008 played out…
As I also mentioned yesterday, it is important not to get fooled if stocks soar on a particular day. The three largest single day stock market gains in history were right in the middle of the financial crisis of 2008. When you start to see big ups and big downs in the market, that is a sign of big trouble ahead. That is why it is so alarming that global financial markets have begun to become quite choppy in recent weeks.
#3 A substantial decline for 10 year bond yields. When investors get scared, there tends to be a “flight to safety” as investors move their money to safer investments. We saw this happen in 2008, and that is happening again right now.
In fact, according to Bloomberg, global 10 year bond yields have already dropped to low levels that are absolutely unprecedented…
Taken together, the average 10-year bond yield of the U.S., Japan and Germany has dropped below 1 percent for the first time ever, according to Steven Englander, global head of G-10 foreign-exchange strategy at Citigroup Inc.
That’s not good news. The rock-bottom rates, which fall below zero when inflation is taken into account, show “that investors think we are going nowhere for a long time,” Englander wrote in a report yesterday.
#4 The price of oil crashes. As I write this, the price of U.S. oil has dipped below $48 a barrel. But back in June, it was sitting at $106 at one point. As the chart below demonstrates, there is only one other time in history when the price of oil has declined by more than $50 in less than a year…
The only other time there has been an oil price collapse of this magnitude we experienced the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression shortly thereafter. Are we about to see history repeat? For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Guess What Happened The Last Time The Price Of Oil Crashed Like This?”
#5 A dramatic drop in the number of oil and gas rigs in operation. Right now, oil and gas rigs are going out of operation at a frightening pace. During the fourth quarter of 2014, 93 oil and gas rigs were idled, and it is being projected that another 200 will shut down this quarter. As this Business Insider article demonstrates, this is also something that happened during the financial crisis of 2008 and it continued well into 2009.
#6 The price of gasoline takes a huge tumble. Millions of Americans are celebrating that the price of gasoline has plummeted in recent weeks. But they were also celebrating when it happened back in 2008 as well. But of course it turned out that there was really nothing to celebrate in 2008. In short order, millions of Americans lost their jobs and their homes. So the chart that I have posted below is definitely not “good news”…
#7 A broad range of industrial commodities begin to decline in price. When industrial commodities go down in price, that is a sign that economic activity is slowing down. And just like in 2008, that is what we are watching unfold on the global stage right now. The following is an excerpt from a recent CNBC article…
From nickel to soybean oil, plywood to sugar, global commodity prices have been on a steady decline as the world’s economy has lost momentum.
For an extended discussion on this, please see my recent article entitled “Not Just Oil: Guess What Happened The Last Time Commodity Prices Crashed Like This?”
#8 A junk bond crash. Just like in 2008, we are witnessing the beginnings of a junk bond collapse. High yield debt related to the energy industry is on the bleeding edge of this crash, but in recent weeks we have seen investors start to bail out of a broad range of junk bonds. Check out this chart and this chart in addition to the chart that I have posted below…
#9 Global inflation slows down significantly. When economic activity slows down, so does inflation. This is something that we witnessed in 2008, this is also something that is happening once again. In fact, it is being projected that global inflation is about to fall to the lowest level that we have seen since World War II…
Increases in the prices of goods and services in the world’s largest economies are slowing dramatically. Analysts are predicting that inflation will fall below 2pc in all of the countries that make up the G7 group of advanced nations this year – the first time that has happened since before the Second World War.
Indeed, Japan was the only G7 country whose inflation rate was above 2pc last year. And economists believe that was because its government increased sales tax which had the effect of artificially boosting prices.
#10 A crisis in investor confidence. Just prior to the last financial crisis, the confidence that investors had that we would be able to avoid a stock market collapse in the next six months began to decline significantly. And guess what? That is something else that is happening once again…
Investor confidence that the US will avoid a stock-market crash in the next six months has dropped dramatically since last spring.
The Yale School of Management publishes a monthly Crash Confidence Index. The index shows the proportion of investors who believe we will avoid a stock-market crash in the next six months.
Yale points out that “crash confidence reached its all-time low, both for individual and institutional investors, in early 2009, just months after the Lehman crisis, reflecting the turmoil in the credit markets and the strong depression fears generated by that event, and is plausibly related to the very low stock market valuations then.”
Are you starting to get the picture?
And of course I am not the only one warning about these things. As I wrote about earlier in the week, there are a whole host of prominent voices that are now warning of imminent financial danger.
Today, I would like to add one more name to the list. He is respected author James Howard Kunstler, and what he predicts is coming in 2015 is absolutely chilling…
Here are my financial forecast particulars for 2015:
- Early in 2015 the ECB proposes a lame QE program and is laughed out of the room. European markets tank.
- Greek elections in January produce a government that stands up to the EU and ECB and causes a fatal slippage of faith in the ability of that project to continue.
- Second half of 2015, the rest of the world gangs up and counter-attacks the US dollar.
- Bond markets in Europe implode in first half and the contagion spreads to the US as fear and distrust rises about viability of US safe haven status.
- Derivatives associated with currencies, interest rates, and junk bonds trigger a bloodbath in credit default swaps (CDS) and the appearance of countless black holes through which debt and “wealth” disappear forever.
- US stock markets continue to bid upward in the first half of 2015, crater in Q3 as faith in paper and pixels erodes. DJA and S & P fall 30 to 40 percent in the initial crash, then further into 2016.
- Gold and silver slide in the first half, then take off as debt and equity markets craters, faith in abstract instruments evaporates, faith in central bank omnipotence dissolves, and citizens all over the world desperately seek safety from currency war.
- Goldman Sachs, Citicorp, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, DeutscheBank, SocGen, all succumb to insolvency. American government and Federal Reserve officials don’t dare attempt to rescue them again.
- By the end of 2015, central banks everywhere stand in general discredit. In the US, the Federal Reserve’s mandate is publically debated and revised back to its original mission as lender of last resort. It is forbidden to engage in further interventions and a new less-secretive mechanism is drawn up for regulating basic interest rates.
- Oil prices creep back into the $65 – $70 range by May 2015. It is not enough to halt the destruction in the shale, tar sand, and deepwater sectors. As contraction in the failing global economy accelerates, oil sinks back to the $40 range in October…
- …unless mischief in the Middle East (in particular, the Islamic State messing with Saudi Arabia) leads to gross and perhaps fatally permanent disruption in world oil markets — and then all bets are off for both the continuity of advanced economies and for peace between nations.
Personally, I don’t agree with Kunstler on all of the particulars and the timing of certain events, but overall I think that we are going to look back when the year is done and say that he was a lot more right than he was wrong.
We are moving into a time of extreme danger for the global economy. There has never been a time when I have been more concerned about a new year since I began The Economic Collapse Blog back in 2009.
Over the past couple of years, we have been very blessed to be able to enjoy a bubble of relative stability. But this period of stability also fooled many people into thinking that our economic problems had been fixed, when in reality they have only gotten worse.
We consume far more wealth than we produce, our debt levels are at record highs and we are at the tail end of the largest Wall Street financial bubble in all of history.
It is inevitable that we are heading for a tragic conclusion to all of this. It is just a matter of time.
The American people are feeling really good right about now. For example, Gallup’s economic confidence index has hit the highest level that we have seen since the last recession. In addition, nearly half of all Americans believe that 2015 will be a better year than 2014 was, and only about 10 percent believe that it will be a worse year. And a lot of people are generally feeling quite good about the people that have been leading our nation. According to Gallup, once again this year Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman in America and Barack Obama is the most admired man in America. I don’t know what that says about our nation, but it can’t be good. Unfortunately, when things seem to be going well common sense tends to go out the window. A couple days ago, the Guardian ran an article entitled “Goodbye to one of the best years in history“, and a whole lot of people out there are feeling really optimistic these days. But should they be?
Sadly, what we are experiencing right now is so similar to what we witnessed in 2007 and early 2008. The stock market had been on a great run, people were flipping houses like crazy and most people were convinced that the party would never end.
But then it did end – very painfully.
The signs of trouble were there, but most people chose to ignore them.
Sadly, the exact same thing is happening again.
On Monday, the price of oil hit a brand new five year low. As I write this, U.S. oil is sitting at a price of $53.76 a barrel, which is nearly a 50 percent decline from the peak earlier this year.
There is only one other time in history when the price of oil has declined by more than 50 dollars a barrel in such a short time frame. That was back in the middle of 2008, shortly before the worst stock market crash since the Great Depression.
Unless the price of oil starts really bouncing back, the U.S. economy is going to be hit really hard.
Since 2009, oil industry employment has risen by 50 percent. And jobs in the oil industry pay quite well. One figure that I saw put the average weekly wage at about 1700 dollars.
But now we aren’t going to be gaining those types of jobs. Instead, we are going to rapidly start losing them.
Already, the oil rig count has dropped for three weeks in a row and is now at an 8 month low. And as the oil industry suffers, all of the industries that it supports are also going to start feeling the pain. In fact, Business Insider is reporting that Texas business executives are “freaked out” about what is happening…
Business executives in Texas are worried about the drop in oil prices.
On Monday, the Dallas Fed’s latest manufacturing survey showed that activity in Texas was slowing down.
The latest composite index came in at 4.1, widely missing expectations and down big from November’s reading. Expectations were for the index to come in at 9, down from 10.5 last month.
So while most Americans are feeling really good about the coming year, many of those with an inside view are becoming quite alarmed. One Texas business executive went so far as to say that the stunning decline in oil prices was “going to make things ugly … quickly.“
Meanwhile, the 9 trillion dollar U.S. dollar carry trade is starting to unwind.
The following is an excerpt from a recent Zero Hedge article…
Oil’s collapse is predicated by one major event: the explosion of the US Dollar carry trade. Worldwide, there is over $9 TRILLION in borrowed US Dollars that has been ploughed into risk assets.
Energy projects, particularly Oil Shale in the US, are one of the prime spots for this. But it is not the only one. Economies that are closely aligned with commodities (all of which are priced in US Dollars) are getting demolished too.
Just about everything will be hit as well. Most of the “recovery” of the last five years has been fueled by cheap borrowed Dollars. Now that the US Dollar has broken out of a multi-year range, you’re going to see more and more “risk assets” (read: projects or investments fueled by borrowed Dollars) blow up. Oil is just the beginning, not a standalone story.
If things really pick up steam, there’s over $9 TRILLION worth of potential explosions waiting in the wings. Imagine if the entire economies of both Germany and Japan exploded and you’ve got a decent idea of the size of the potential impact on the financial system.
And that’s assuming NO increased leverage from derivative usage.
And yes, as that last excerpt mentioned, derivatives could soon become a massive problem. The big banks are holding trillions in commodity derivatives that could blow up if the price of oil does not rebound. Overall, there are five U.S. banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives of all types, and the total global derivatives bubble is at least 700 trillion dollars at this point.
At the same time, many are becoming concerned that the unprecedented bond bubble that we are witnessing could soon implode and trillions of dollars of “wealth” could disappear into thin air.
In fact, Bloomberg says that we should “get ready for a disastrous year” for bonds…
Get ready for a disastrous year for U.S. government bonds. That’s the message forecasters on Wall Street are sending.
With Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen poised to raise interest rates in 2015 for the first time in almost a decade, prognosticators are convinced Treasury yields have nowhere to go except up. Their calls for higher yields next year are the most aggressive since 2009, when U.S. debt securities suffered record losses, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
That certainly does not sound very optimistic, does it?
Anyone with even a minimal amount of intelligence should be able to see the massive financial bubbles that the central banks of the world have created, and anyone with even a minimal amount of intelligence should be able to see that we are heading for a massive financial implosion which will be extraordinarily painful.
Unfortunately, as I wrote about yesterday, the American people have become “zombiefied“. Instead of thinking for themselves, they let “the matrix” do their thinking for them. And right now “the matrix” is telling them that everything is going to be just fine in 2015.
If you do not think that there is a propaganda machine that tells us what to think, I want you to watch the video posted below very carefully. This video makes it so obvious that even a small child can understand it…
Should the federal government be spending billions of dollars to pump up Wal-Mart’s profits? I know that question sounds really bizarre, but unfortunately this is essentially what is happening. Because Wal-Mart does not pay them enough money, hundreds of thousands of Wal-Mart employees enroll in Medicaid, food stamps and other social welfare programs. Even though Wal-Mart makes enormous profits, they refuse to properly take care of their employees so the federal government has to do it. And of course this is not just a Wal-Mart problem. There are hundreds of other major corporations doing exactly the same thing. And they will keep on doing it as long as they can because relying on the federal government to take care of their employees allows them to make much larger profits. This gives these companies an enormous competitive advantage and it distorts the marketplace. If you love the free enterprise system, you should be aghast at this. Our big corporations have become the biggest “welfare queens” of all, and Wal-Mart is near the top of that list.
Does your local Wal-Mart store seem like it needs help from the federal government?
Of course not.
Wal-Marts all over the nation were absolutely packed this holiday season, but according to a recent Bloomberg article, the average amount of welfare that Wal-Mart employees receive from the government each year breaks down to about $420,000 per store…
Wal-Mart’s low wages have led to full-time employees seeking public assistance. These are not the 47 percent, lazy, unmotivated bums. Rather, these are people working physical, often difficult jobs. They receive $2.66 billion in government help each year (including $1 billion in healthcare assistance). That works out to about $5,815 per worker. And about $420,000 per store.
Does that make you angry?
Today, Wal-Mart employs approximately 1.2 million people in the United States, and it makes a yearly profit of about 17 billion dollars.
So why does it need 2.6 billion dollars of help from the U.S. government?
Wal-Mart is a colossal money-making behemoth. Just consider the following numbers…
The size of Wal-Mart is sometimes difficult to visualize. To put it into some context, consider the following: 100 million U.S. shoppers patronize Wal-Mart stores every week. Wal-Mart has twice the number employees of the U.S. Postal Service, a larger global computer network than the Pentagon, and the world’s largest fleet of trucks. Americans spend about $36 million dollars per hour at the stores. Wal-Mart now sells more food than any other company in the world, capturing one of every four dollars spent on food in the U.S. The average American family of four spends over $4,000 a year there. Each week, it has 200 million customers at more than 10,400 stores in 27 countries. If the company were an independent country, it would be the 25th largest economy in the world.
Wal-Mart does well enough to be able to pay their workers a livable wage.
And yet they refuse to do it.
Shame on them.
Meanwhile, the six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have as much wealth as the poorest one-third of all Americans combined.
This reminds me of something that I read in the fifth chapter of James the other day…
Come now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasures for the last days. Indeed the wages that you kept back by fraud from the laborers who harvested your fields are crying, and the cries of those who harvested have entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived in pleasure on the earth and have been wayward. You have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter.
But we continue to reward this behavior, don’t we?
100 million of us continue to visit Wal-Mart every single week, and we continue to fill up our shopping carts with cheap products that are made outside this country.
We refuse to support American workers and American businesses, and this is a recipe for utter disaster. For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “National Economic Suicide: The U.S. Trade Deficit With China Just Hit A New Record High“.
The truth is that we cannot consume our way to prosperity. When we consume far more wealth than we produce, we pile up debt and we become poorer as a nation.
And as a country we have become exceedingly cold-hearted toward our workers. If you truly love free markets and capitalism, you should be encouraging big companies to pay their workers properly. Instead, we are moving closer and closer to the slave labor model employed by China and other communist nations with each passing day. Sadly, I am becoming increasingly convinced that many prominent “pro-business” voices in America today are actually closet communists. They seem to want everything to be made in China and for American workers to be paid just like Chinese workers.
At this point, the U.S. middle class is well on the way to being destroyed. As I have written about previously, 40 percent of all American workers now make less than what a minimum wage worker made back in 1968 after you account for inflation.
How is the middle class supposed to survive in such an environment?
And for any “pro-business” people that want to defend Wal-Mart, do you actually like paying suffocating taxes to support all of the people that are being forced on to the safety net?
What is our society going to look like as millions more Americans become dependent on the federal government each year? Government dependence is already at an all-time record high. How much worse do things have to get before we admit that we have a real problem?
Unfortunately, it looks like our problems are only going to accelerate in 2015. Thanks to the stunning decline in the price of oil, we are starting to lose good paying jobs in the energy industry…
One company caught in the industry downturn is Hercules Offshore Inc. The Houston-based firm is laying off 324 employees, roughly 15% of its workforce, because oil companies aren’t renewing contracts for its offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico while crude prices are depressed.
“It’s been breathtaking,” said Jim Noe, executive vice president of Hercules, which was founded in 2004. “We’ve never seen this glut of supply and dislocation in oil markets. So we’re not surprised to see a significant decline in demand for our services.”
These are jobs that we cannot afford to lose.
Since the end of the last recession, the energy industry has been the leading creator of good paying jobs in America.
But now as the U.S. energy boom goes bust, it might lead the way in job losses.
In order to have a middle class, we have got to have middle class jobs.
Unfortunately, those kinds of jobs are disappearing and the entire U.S. economy is moving toward the Wal-Mart model.
In the end, we will all pay a great price for such foolishness.
The idea that the United States is on the brink of a horrifying economic crash is absolutely inconceivable to most Americans. After all, the economy has been relatively stable for quite a few years and the stock market continues to surge to new heights. On Friday, the Dow and the S&P 500 both closed at brand new all-time record highs. For the year, the S&P 500 is now up 9 percent and the Nasdaq is now up close to 11 percent. And American consumers are getting ready to spend more than 600 billion dollars this Christmas season. That is an amount of money that is larger than the entire economy of Sweden. So how in the world can anyone be talking about economic collapse? Yes, many will concede, we had a few bumps in the road back in 2008 but things have pretty much gotten back to normal since then. Why be concerned about economic collapse when there is so much stability all around us?
Unfortunately, this brief period of stability that we have been enjoying is just an illusion.
The fundamental problems that caused the financial crisis of 2008 have not been fixed. In fact, most of our long-term economic problems have gotten even worse.
But most Americans have such short attention spans these days. In a world where we are accustomed to getting everything instantly, news cycles only last for 48 hours and 2008 might as well be an eternity ago.
In the United States today, our entire economic system is based on debt.
Without debt, very little economic activity happens. We need mortgages to buy our homes, we need auto loans to buy our vehicles and we need our credit cards to do our shopping during the holiday season.
So where does all of that debt come from?
It comes from the banks.
In particular, the “too big to fail banks” are the heart of this debt-based system.
Do you have a mortgage, an auto loan or a credit card from one of these “too big to fail” institutions? A very large percentage of the people that will read this article do.
And a lot of people might not like to hear this, but without those banks we essentially do not have an economy.
When Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, it almost resulted in the meltdown of our entire system. The stock market collapsed and we experienced an absolutely wicked credit crunch.
Unfortunately, that was just a small preview of what is coming.
Even though a few prominent “experts” such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman have declared that the “too big to fail” problem is “over”, the truth is that it is now a bigger crisis than ever before.
Compared to five years ago, the four largest banks in the country are now almost 40 percent larger. The following numbers come from a recent article in the Los Angeles Times…
Just before the financial crisis hit, Wells Fargo & Co. had $609 billion in assets. Now it has $1.4 trillion. Bank of America Corp. had $1.7 trillion in assets. That’s up to $2.1 trillion.
And the assets of JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation’s biggest bank, have ballooned to $2.4 trillion from $1.8 trillion.
At the same time that those banks have been getting bigger, 1,400 smaller banks have completely disappeared from the banking industry.
That means that we are now more dependent on these gigantic banks than ever.
At this point, the five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks account for 67 percent of all assets in our financial system.
If someone came along and zapped those banks out of existence, our economy would totally collapse overnight.
So the health of this handful of immensely powerful banking institutions is absolutely critical to our economy.
Unfortunately, these banks have become deeply addicted to gambling.
Have you ever known people that allowed their lives to be destroyed by addictions that they could never shake?
Well, that is what is happening to these banks. They have transformed Wall Street into the largest casino in the history of the world. Most of the time, their bets pay off and they make lots of money.
But as we saw back in 2008, when they miscalculate things can fall apart very rapidly.
The bets that I am most concerned about are known as “derivatives“. In essence, they are bets about what will or will not happen in the future. The big banks use very sophisticated algorithms that are supposed to help them be on the winning side of these bets the vast majority of the time, but these algorithms are not perfect. The reason these algorithms are not perfect is because they are based on assumptions, and those assumptions come from people. They might be really smart people, but they are still just people.
If things stay fairly stable like they have the past few years, the algorithms tend to work very well.
But if there is a “black swan event” such as a major stock market crash, a collapse of European or Asian banks, a historic shift in interest rates, an Ebola pandemic, a horrific natural disaster or a massive EMP blast is unleashed by the sun, everything can be suddenly thrown out of balance.
Acrobat Nik Wallenda has been making headlines all over the world for crossing vast distances on a high-wire without a safety net. Well, that is essentially what our “too big to fail” banks are doing every single day. With each passing year, these banks have become even more reckless, and so far there have not been any serious consequences.
But without a doubt, someday there will be.
What would you say about a bookie that took $200,000 in bets but that only had $10,000 to cover those bets?
You would certainly call that bookie a fool.
But that is what our big banks are doing.
Right now, JPMorgan Chase has more than 67 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it only has 2.5 trillion dollars in assets.
Right now, Citibank has nearly 60 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it only has 1.9 trillion dollars in assets.
Right now, Goldman Sachs has more than 54 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it has less than a trillion dollars in assets.
Right now, Bank of America has more than 54 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it only has 2.2 trillion dollars in assets.
Right now, Morgan Stanley has more than 44 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it has less than a trillion dollars in assets.
Most people have absolutely no idea how incredibly vulnerable our financial system really is.
The truth is that these “too big to fail” banks could collapse at any time.
And when they fail, our economy will fail too.
So let us hope and pray that this brief period of false stability lasts for as long as possible.
Because when it ends, all hell is going to break loose.