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They Are Slowly Making Cash Illegal

Cash - Public DomainThe move to a cashless society won’t happen overnight.  Instead, it is being implemented very slowly and systematically in a series of incremental steps.  All over the planet, governments are starting to place restrictions on the use of cash for security reasons.  As citizens, we are being told that this is being done to thwart criminals, terrorists, drug runners, money launderers and tax evaders.  Other forms of payment are much easier for governments to track, and so they very much prefer them.  But we are rapidly getting to the point where the use of cash is considered to be a “suspicious activity” all by itself.  These days, if you pay a hotel bill with cash or if you pay for several hundred dollars worth of goods at a store with cash you are probably going to get looked at funny.  You see, the truth is that we have already been trained to regard the use of large amounts of cash to be unusual.  The next step will be to formally ban large cash transactions like France and other countries in Europe are already doing.

Starting in September, cash transactions of more than 1,000 euros will be banned in France.  The following comes from a recent Zero Hedge article which detailed what these new restrictions will do…

Prohibiting  French residents from making cash payments of more than 1,000 euros, down from the current limit of  3,000 euros.

Given the parlous state of the stagnating French economy the limit for foreign tourists on currency payments will remain higher, at 10,000 euros down from the current limit of 15,000 euros.

The threshold below which a French resident is  free to convert euros into other currencies without having to show an identity card will be slashed from the current level of 8,000 euros to 1,000 euros.

In addition any cash deposit or withdrawal of more than 10,000 euros during a single month will be reported to the French anti-fraud and money laundering agency Tracfin.

French authorities will also have to be notified of any freight transfers within the EU exceeding 10,000 euros, including checks, pre-paid cards, or gold.

Of course Spain has already banned cash transactions of more than 2,500 euros and Italy has already banned cash transactions of more than 1,000 euros.

We don’t have these kinds of outright bans in the United States just yet, but what we do have are some very strict reporting requirements.

For example, if you regularly deposit large amounts of cash, there is a very good chance that you have been the subject of a “suspicious activity report”.  In 2013, approximately 1.6 million suspicious activity reports were submitted to the federal government.

The following guidelines for when a suspicious activity report should be filed come from a government website

*****

Banks, bank holding companies, and their subsidiaries are required by federal regulations53 to file a SAR with respect to:

  • Criminal violations involving insider abuse in any amount.
  • Criminal violations aggregating $5,000 or more when a suspect can be identified.
  • Criminal violations aggregating $25,000 or more regardless of a potential suspect.
  • Transactions conducted or attempted by, at, or through the bank (or an affiliate) and aggregating $5,000 or more, if the bank or affiliate knows, suspects, or has reason to suspect that the transaction:
    • May involve potential money laundering or other illegal activity (e.g., terrorism financing).54
    • Is designed to evade the BSA or its implementing regulations.55
    • Has no business or apparent lawful purpose or is not the type of transaction that the particular customer would normally be expected to engage in, and the bank knows of no reasonable explanation for the transaction after examining the available facts, including the background and possible purpose of the transaction.

*****

Most people don’t realize this, but there are minimum quotas for suspicious activity reports that banks must meet.  If they do not submit enough suspicious activity reports, they can be fined (or worse).

And now the Obama administration is saying that just filling out suspicious activity reports may not be good enough.

According to the Wall Street Journal, banks are actually being encouraged to directly contact law enforcement if they see something that does not look right…

The U.S. Justice Department’s criminal head said banks may need to go beyond filing suspicious activity reports when they encounter a risky customer.

“The vast majority of financial institutions file suspicious activity reports when they suspect that an account is connected to nefarious activity,” said assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell in a Monday speech, according to prepared remarks. “But, in appropriate cases, we encourage those institutions to consider whether to take more action: specifically, to alert law enforcement authorities about the problem.”

The remarks indicate that banks may be expected to do more than just file SARs, a responsibility that itself can be expensive and time-consuming.

That should send a chill up your spine.

In a recent piece, Simon Black imagined a future scenario in which some unsuspecting American citizen goes to the bank to withdraw a large amount of cash…

Imagine going to the bank to withdraw some cash.

Having some cash on hand is always a prudent strategy, and especially today when more and more bank deposits are creeping into negative territory, meaning that you have to pay the banks for the privilege that they gamble with your money.

You tell the teller that you’d like to withdraw $5,000 from your account. She hesitates nervously and wants to know why.

You try to politely let her know that that’s none of the bank’s business as it’s your money.

The teller disappears for a few minutes, leaving you waiting.

When she returns she tells you that you can collect your money in a few days as they don’t have it on hand at the moment.

Slightly irritated because of the inconvenience, you head home.

But as you pull into your driveway later there’s an unexpected surprise waiting for you: two police officers would like to have a word with you about your intended withdrawal earlier…

Perhaps you don’t think that anything like that could ever happen to you.

Well, consider what the feds are doing to one widow in Iowa

A widow’s bank account was seized by the IRS and she now faces criminal charges for depositing her legal inheritance money in lumps instead of all together.

Janet Malone, 68, had $18,775 seized from her — money that was legally earned and was legally bestowed to her by her late husband, Ronald Malone. The problem, according to the government, was the fact that she deposited it in several lumps instead of all at once.

According to the Associated Press, Mrs. Malone deposited the cash in increments between $5,800 and $9,000. The widow’s private financial affairs evidently set off red flags under the watchful gaze of the federal government.

Remember, she was not guilty of committing any crime other than depositing cash in lumps instead of all at once.

If this is how ruthless the feds will be with an elderly widow, how would they treat you under similar circumstances?

So why are they doing this?

The truth is that they want to discourage the public from using cash.  Our government, just like governments all over the planet, is not being shy about the fact that it does not like cash.  If they can make people afraid to use cash, that suits their purposes very well.

And with each passing year the restrictions on the use of cash globally will just get tighter and tighter and the role that cash plays in our lives will just become smaller and smaller.

In the end, a transition to an almost entirely cashless society will seem almost natural.  Cash is being killed off one slow step at a time, and at this point hardly anyone is objecting.

Guess What Happened The Last Two Times The S&P 500 Was Up More Than 200% In Six Years?

Question Ball - Public DomainJust a few days ago, the bull market for the S&P 500 turned six years old.  This six year period of time has been great for investors, but what comes next?  On March 9th, 2009 the S&P 500 hit a low of 676.53.  Since that day, it has risen more than 200 percent.  As you will see below, there are only two other times within the last 100 years when the S&P 500 performed this well over a six year time frame.  In both instances, the end result was utter disaster. And as you take in this information, I want you to keep in mind what I said in my previous article entitled “7 Signs That A Stock Market Peak Is Happening Right Now“.  What we are witnessing at this moment is classic “peaking behavior”, and there is a long way to go down from here.  So if historical patterns hold up, those with lots of money in the stock market could soon be in for a whole lot of trouble.

According to Societe Generale analyst Andrew Lapthorne, there was an S&P 500 bull market run of more than 200 percent over a six year time period that ended in 1929.

We all know what happened that year.

And there was another S&P 500 bull market run of more than 200 percent over a six year time period that ended in 1999.  In the end, all of those gains were wiped out when the dotcom bubble burst.

And now we are near the end of another great bull market for the S&P 500.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Business Insider article

“Such a strong six year run up in US equities has only been seen twice since 1900, i.e., back in 1929 and 1999, neither of which ended well,” Lapthorne wrote.

It’s anyone’s guess what happens next. But Lapthorne and his colleagues have slanted bearish.

Best Six Year Performance

So how will this current bull market end?

Needless to say, a lot of people are not very optimistic about that right now.

And there was another very interesting bull market that ended in 1987

On Aug. 12, the S&P 500 dipped to 102.42, setting the stage for the third-biggest bull market in stocks since 1929. Inflation and unemployment fell. In 1984, President Reagan would cruise to reelection with an ad telling voters “It’s morning again in America.” By 1987, the stock market had tripled. Shareholders who were able to see beyond the gloom of the early 1980s reaped a huge return.

Of course a lot of those huge stock market returns were eliminated in a single day.  On October 19th, 1987 the Dow declined by more than 22 percent during a single trading session.  That day is still known as “Black Monday” up to this present time.

Markets tend to go down a lot faster than they go up.  So if your stock portfolio has gone up substantially over the past few years, good for you.  But keep in mind that all of your gains can be wiped out very rapidly.  Millions of people experienced this during the last financial crisis, and millions more will experience this during the next one.

And as I keep reminding people, so many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed just prior to the last great stock market collapse are happening once again.

For example, just yesterday I explained that there has been only one other time over the past decade when we have seen the U.S. dollar surge in value in such a short period of time.

That was in 2008, just prior to the last financial crisis.

Another example is what has happened to the price of oil.  Since the middle of last year, the price of oil has fallen by more than 50 dollars a barrel.

In all of history, that has happened only one other time.

That was in 2008, just prior to the last financial crisis.

I could go on and on.  I could talk about margin debt, price/earnings ratios, industrial commodities, etc.

But you know what?  Despite all of the warning signs there are still people out there that are eagerly pouring money into the stock market.

Back in 2005 and 2006, I knew people that were hurrying to buy homes before they got “priced out of the market”.  So they did everything that they could to scrape together down payments and they took on mortgages that were larger than they could really afford.

And in the end they got burned.

Today, people are doing similar things.  For instance, my friend Bob recently sent me an article that I could hardly believe.  It turns out that an “expert” on CNBC is encouraging people “to take out a 7 year loan with a rapidly amortizing asset as collateral in order to buy stocks.”

Yikes!

Let me be clear.  The really, really, really dumb money is jumping into the stock market right now.  Those that are pouring money into stocks today are really going to get hit hard when the crash comes.

And it isn’t just me saying this.

Just consider the words of billionaire hedge fund manager Crispin Odey

Mr Odey is best known for his big macroeconomic calls, including foreseeing the 2008 global credit crisis; piling into insurers in the wake of September 2001 attacks; and picking the recent oil price rout. He famously paid himself £28 million in 2008 after shorting credit crisis casualties, including British lender Bradford & Bingley. Mr Odey’s fund returned 54.8 per cent that year.

“The market’s reaction to all of this is leave it to the professionals, leave it to those great guys, the central bankers, because they saved the day in 2009,” he said. “These guys are kind of relying on central banks pulling a rabbit out of a hat.”

The risk is that this time, monetary policy may be ineffective: “We need the crisis to reformulate policy. Central banks are not all singing and all dancing, they cannot basically avoid the natural consequences of what we are doing.”

An inadequate supply-side response to the plunge in commodity prices as the resources industry declines to reduce production was in effect stimulating supply into falling demand.

“The trouble is today the players, whether they are the miners or the oil companies or the Saudis or anybody else, they are not doing the right things. This is the first time in my career where economics 101 doesn’t work at all.”

But it was also true that the world has not had a major recession for 25 years and thanks to frequent interventions, “there is a sensation we don’t have a business cycle”. Stocks are enjoying a six-year bull market but he also hinted at liquidity issues bubbling under the surface.

I just think that you and I have got grandstand seats here [to an imminent market shock] and my point is having found myself in the second quarter of last year selling a lot of equities and starting to go short, I found out just how illiquid it all was. You never actually see it until people try and get out of these things.”

It was unclear to Mr Odey what central banks could do to prevent a crash.

The warning signs are clear.

Soon the time for warning will be over and the crisis will be here.

I hope that you are getting ready.

It’s Germany vs. Greece, And The Very Survival Of The Eurozone Is At Stake

Boxing - Public DomainIs this the beginning of the end for the eurozone?  On Thursday, Germany rejected a Greek request for a six-month loan extension.  The Germans insisted that the Greek proposal did not require the Greeks to adhere to the austerity restrictions which previous agreements had forced upon them.  But Greek voters have already very clearly rejected the status quo, and the new Greek government has stated unequivocally that it will not be bound by the current bailout arrangement.  So can Germany and Greece find some sort of compromise that will be acceptable to both of them?  It certainly does not help that some Greek politicians have been comparing the current German government to the Nazis, and the Germans have fired back with some very nasty comments about the Greeks.  Unfortunately for both of them, time is running out.  The Greek government will run out of money in just a couple of weeks, and without a deal there is a very good chance that Greece will be forced to leave the euro.  In fact, this week Commerzbank AG increased the probability of a “Grexit” to 50 percent.  And if Greece does leave the eurozone, it could spark a full blown European financial crisis which would be absolutely catastrophic.

What the Greeks want right now is a six month loan extension which would give them much more economic flexibility than under the current agreement.  Unfortunately for the Greeks, Germany has rejected this proposal

Germany rejected a Greek proposal for a six-month extension to its euro zone loan agreement on Thursday, saying it was “not a substantial solution” because it did not commit Athens to stick to the conditions of its international bailout.

Berlin’s stance set the scene for tough talks at a crucial meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Friday when Greece’s new leftist-led government, racing to avoid running out of money within weeks, will face pressure to make further concessions.

As the biggest creditor and EU paymaster, Germany has the clout to block a deal and cast Greece adrift without a financial lifeline, potentially pushing it toward the euro zone exit.

Even though Germany is already saying no to this deal, Greece is still hoping that the Eurogroup will accept the deal that it has proposed…

“The Greek government submitted a letter to the Eurogroup asking for a six-month extension of the loan agreement. Tomorrow’s Eurogroup has only two options: either to accept or reject the Greek request,” a government  official said. “It will then be clear who wants to find a solution and who doesn’t.” Earlier on Thursday, the German finance ministry rejected Athens’ request for an extension by saying it fell short of the conditions set out earlier this week by the euro zone.

At this point, the odds of a deal going through don’t look good.

But there is always next week.  It is possible that something could still happen.

However, if there is no deal and Greece is forced out of the euro, the consequences for Greece and for the rest of the eurozone could be quite dramatic.

The following is how the Independent summarized what could happen to Greece…

An immediate financial crisis and a new, deep, recession. Without external financial support the country would have to default on its debts and, probably, start printing its own currency again in order to pay civil servants. Its banks would also lose access to funding from the European Central Bank.

To prevent these institutions collapsing Athens would have impose controls on the movement of money out of the country. The international value of the new Greek currency would inevitably be much lower than the euro. That would mean an instant drop in living standards for Greeks as import prices spike. And if Greeks have foreign debts which they have to pay back in euros they will also be instantly worse off. There could be a cascade of defaults.

That doesn’t sound pretty at all.

The most frightening part for those that have money in Greek banks would be the capital controls that would be imposed.  People would have to deal with strict restrictions on how much money they could take out of their accounts and on how much money they could take out of the country.

In anticipation of this happening, people are already pulling money out of Greek banks at a staggering pace

In the midst of the dramatic showdown in Brussels between the new Greek government and its European creditors, many Greek depositors—spooked by the prospect of a Greek default or, worse, an exit from the euro zone and a possible return to the drachma—have been pulling euros out of the nation’s banks in record amounts over the last few days.

The Bank of Greece and the European Central Bank won’t report official cash outflows for January until the end of the month. But sources in the Greek banking sector have told Greek newspapers that as much as 25 billion euros (US $28.4 billion) have left Greek banks since the end of December. According to the same sources, an estimated 900 million euros flowed out of Greek banks on Tuesday alone, the day after the talks broke up in Brussels, sparking fears that measures will be taken to stem the outflow. On Thursday, by mid-afternoon, deposits had shrunk by about 680 million euros (US $77.3 million).

If outflows reach 1 billion euros, capital controls might need to be imposed,” said Thanasis Koukakis, a financial editor for Estia a conservative daily, and To Vima, an influential Sunday newspaper.

And if we do indeed witness a “Grexit”, the rest of Europe would be deeply affected as well.

The following is how the Independent summarized what could happen to the rest of the continent…

There would probably be some financial contagion as financial investors wake up to the fact that euro membership is not irreversible. There could a “flight to safety” as depositors pull euros out of other potentially vulnerable eurozone members such as Portugal, Spain or Italy to avoid taking a hit. European company share prices could also fall sharply if investors panic and divert their cash into the government bonds of states such as Germany and Finland.

The question is how severe this contagion would be. The continent’s politicians and regulators seem to think the impact would be relatively small, saying that Europe’s banks have reduced their cross-border exposure to Greece and that general confidence in the future of the eurozone is much stronger than it was a few years ago. But others think this is too complacent. The truth is that no one knows for sure.

To be honest, I think that the rest of the eurozone is being far too complacent about what Greece leaving would mean.

There are all kinds of implications that most people are not even discussing yet.

For example, just consider what a “Grexit” would mean for the European interbank payment system known as Target2.  The following comes from an article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

In normal times, Target2 adjustments are routine and self-correcting. They occur automatically as money is shifted around the currency bloc. The US Federal Reserve has a similar internal system to square books across regions. They turn nuclear if monetary union breaks up.

The Target2 “debts” owed by Greece’s central bank to the ECB jumped to €49bn in December as capital flight accelerated on fears of a Syriza victory. They may have reached €65bn or €70bn by now.

A Greek default – unavoidable in a Grexit scenario – would crystallize these losses. The German people would discover instantly that a large sum of money committed without their knowledge and without a vote in the Bundestag had vanished.

Ouch.

And in a previous article, I discussed some of the other things that are at stake…

If there is no deal, we could see a Greek debt default, Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone and go back to the drachma, the euro could collapse to all time lows, all the banks all over Europe that are exposed to Greek government debt could be faced with absolutely massive losses, and the 26 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the euro could start to unravel.  In essence, if things go badly this could be enough to push us into a global financial crisis.

At the end of the day, there are essentially only two choices for Europe…

#1) Find a way to make a deal, which would maybe keep the current financial house of cards together for another six months.

#2) A horrifying European financial crisis starting almost immediately.

In the long-term, nothing is going to stop the economic horror which is coming to Europe, and once it starts it is going to drag down the entire planet.

A Day Of Reckoning For The Euro Has Arrived – 26 TRILLION In Currency Derivatives At Risk

Yanis Varoufakis - posted to Twitter by Utopian FiremanThis is the month when the future of the eurozone will be decided.  This week, Greek leaders will meet with European officials to discuss what comes next for Greece.  The new prime minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, has already stated that he will not accept an extension of the current bailout.  Officials from other eurozone countries have already said that they expect Greece to fully honor the terms of the current agreement.  So basically we are watching a giant game of financial “chicken” play out over in Europe, and a showdown is looming.  Adding to the drama is the fact that the Greek government is rapidly running out of money.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Greece is “on course to run out of money within weeks if it doesn’t gain access to additional funds, effectively daring Germany and its other European creditors to let it fail and stumble out of the euro.”  We have witnessed other moments of crisis for Greece before, but things are very different this time because the new Greek government is being run by radical leftists that based their entire campaign on ending the austerity that has been imposed on Greece by the rest of Europe.  If they buckle under the demands of the European financial lords, their credibility will be gone and Syriza will essentially be finished in Greek politics.  But if they don’t compromise, Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone and we could potentially be facing the equivalent of “financial armageddon” in Europe.  If nobody flinches, the eurozone will fall to pieces, the euro will collapse and trillions upon trillions of dollars in derivatives will be in jeopardy.

According to the Bank for International Settlements, 26.45 trillion dollars in currency derivatives are directly tied to the value of the euro.

Let that number sink in for a moment.

To give you some perspective, keep in mind that the U.S. government spends a total of less than 4 trillion dollars a year.

The entire U.S. national debt is just a bit above 18 trillion dollars.

So 26 trillion dollars is an amount of money that is almost unimaginable.  And of course those are just the derivatives that are directly tied to the euro.  Overall, the total global derivatives bubble is more than 700 trillion dollars in size.

Over the past couple of decades, the global financial system has been transformed into the biggest casino in the history of the planet.  And when things are stable, the computer algorithms used by the big banks work quite well and they make enormous amounts of money.  But when unexpected things happen and markets go haywire, the financial institutions that gamble on derivatives can lose massive quantities of money very rapidly.  We saw this in 2008, and we could be on the verge of seeing this happen again.

If no agreement can be reached and Greece does leave the eurozone, the euro is going to fall off a cliff.

When that happens, someone out there is going to lose an extraordinary amount of money.

And just like in 2008, when the big financial institutions start to fail that will plunge the entire planet into another major financial crisis.

So at the moment, it is absolutely imperative that Greece and the rest of the eurozone find some common ground.

Unfortunately, that may not happen.  The new prime minister of Greece certainly does not sound like he is in a compromising mood

Greece’s new leftist prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, said on Sunday he would not accept an extension to Greece’s current bailout, setting up a clash with EU leaders – who want him to do just that – at a summit on Thursday.

Tsipras also pledged his government would heal the “wounds” of austerity, sticking to campaign pledges of giving free food and electricity to those who had suffered, and reinstating civil servants who had been fired as part of bailout austerity conditions.

Prior to the summit on Thursday, eurozone finance ministers are going to get together on Wednesday to discuss what they should do.  If these two meetings don’t go well this week, we could be looking at big trouble right around the corner.  In fact, Greece is being warned that they only have until February 16th to apply for an extension of the current bailout…

Euro zone finance ministers will discuss how to proceed with financial support for Athens at a special session next Wednesday ahead of the first summit of EU leaders with the new Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, the following day.

However, the chairman of the finance ministers said the following meeting of the Eurogroup on Feb. 16 would be Greece’s last chance to apply for a bailout extension because some euro zone countries would need to consult their parliaments.

“Time will become very short if they (Greece) don’t ask for an extension (by then),” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

The current bailout for Greece expires on Feb 28. Without it the country will not get financing or debt relief from its lenders and has little hope of financing itself in the markets.

And as I mentioned above, the Greek government is quickly running out of money.

Most analysts believe that because of the enormous stakes that one side or the other will give in at some point.

But what if that does not happen?

Personally, I believe that the eurozone is doomed in the configuration that we see it today, and that it is just a matter of time before it breaks up.

And I am far from alone.  For example, just check out what former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan is saying

Mr Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, said: “I believe [Greece] will eventually leave. I don’t think it helps them or the rest of the eurozone – it is just a matter of time before everyone recognizes that parting is the best strategy.

The problem is that there there is no way that I can conceive of the euro of continuing, unless and until all of the members of eurozone become politically integrated – actually even just fiscally integrated won’t do it.”

The Greeks are using all of this to their advantage.  They know that if they leave it could break apart the entire monetary union.  So this gives them a tremendous amount of leverage.  Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has even gone so far as to compare the eurozone to a house of cards

The euro is fragile, it’s like building a castle of cards, if you take out the Greek card the others will collapse.” Varoufakis said according to an Italian transcript of the interview released by RAI ahead of broadcast.

The euro zone faces a risk of fragmentation and “de-construction” unless it faces up to the fact that Greece, and not only Greece, is unable to pay back its debt under the current terms, Varoufakis said.

“I would warn anyone who is considering strategically amputating Greece from Europe because this is very dangerous,” he said. “Who will be next after us? Portugal? What will happen when Italy discovers it is impossible to remain inside the straitjacket of austerity?”

After all this time and after so many bailouts, we have finally reached a day of reckoning.

There is a very real possibility that Greece could leave the eurozone in just a matter of months, and the elite know this.

That is why they are getting prepared for that eventuality.  The following is from a recent Wall Street Journal report

The U.K. government is stepping up contingency planning to prepare for a possible Greek exit from the eurozone and the market instability such a move would create, U.K. Treasury chief George Osborne said on Sunday.

A spokeswoman for the Treasury declined comment on the details of the contingency planning.

The U.K. government has said the standoff between Greece’s new anti-austerity government and the eurozone is increasing the risks to the global and U.K. economy.

“That’s why I’m going tomorrow to the G-20 [Group of 20] to encourage our partners to resolve this crisis. It’s why we’re stepping up the contingency planning here at home,” Mr. Osborne told the BBC in an interview. “We have got to make sure we don’t, at this critical time when Britain is also facing a critical choice, add to the instability abroad with instability at home.”

And if Greece does leave, it will cause panic throughout global financial markets as everyone wonders who is next.

Italy, Spain and Portugal are all in a similar position.  Every one of them could rapidly become “the next Greece”.

But of even greater concern is what a “Grexit” would do to the euro.  If the euro falls below parity with the U.S. dollar, the derivatives losses are going to be absolutely mind blowing.  And coupled with the collapse of the price of oil, we could be looking at some extreme financial instability in the not too distant future.

When big banks collapse, they don’t do it overnight.  But we often learn about it in a single moment.

Just remember Lehman Brothers.  Their problems developed over an extended period of time, but we only learned the full extent of their difficulties on one very disturbing day in 2008, and that day changed the world.

As you read this, big financial troubles are brewing in the background.  At some point, they are going to come to the surface.  When they do, the entire planet is going to be shocked.

 

Barack Obama Says That What America Really Needs Is Lots More Debt

ObamacareWhen it comes to taking a chainsaw to the future of America, nobody seems more eager than Barack Obama.  Despite the fact that the U.S. national debt is on pace to approximately double during his eight years in the White House, he has just proposed a budget that would take government spending to crazy new heights.  When Barack Obama took the oath of office, the U.S. national debt was 10.6 trillion dollars.  Today, it has surpassed the 18 trillion dollar mark.  And even though we are being told that “deficits are going down”, the truth is that the U.S. national debt increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal 2014.  But that isn’t good enough for Obama.  He says that we need to come out of this period of “mindless austerity” and steal money from our children and our grandchildren even faster.  In addition, Obama wants to raise taxes again.  His budget calls for 2 trillion dollars in tax increases over the next decade.  He always touts these tax increases as “tax hikes on the rich”, but somehow they almost always seem to end up hitting the middle class too.  But whether or not Congress ever adopts Obama’s new budget is not really the issue.  The reality of the matter is that the “tax and spend Democrats” and the “tax and spend Republicans” are both responsible for getting us into this mess.  Future generations of Americans are already facing the largest mountain of debt in the history of the planet, and both parties want to make this mountain of debt even higher.  The only disagreement is about how fast it should happen.  It is a national disgrace, but most Americans have come to accept this as “normal”.  If our children and our grandchildren get the opportunity, they will curse us for what we have done to them.

All debt destroys.

All debt enslaves.

And when you are talking about an 18 trillion dollar debt, you are talking about an amount of money that is almost unimaginable.

If our national debt was reduced to a stack of one dollar bills, it would circle our planet at the equator 45 times.

How could we have done such a thing?

Thomas Jefferson once said that “the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”  He correctly understood that government debt is stealing.  We are financially raping our children, our grandchildren and all future generations of Americans.  It is an incredibly wicked thing to do.

But instead of men like Thomas Jefferson running our country, we have men like Barack Obama running it.

And to Barack Obama, running up a trillion dollars of debt a year is “mindless austerity”

“I want to work with Congress to replace mindless austerity with smart investments that strengthen America,” Obama said in a speech at the Department of Homeland Security. “I’m not going to accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward. It would be bad for our security, and bad for our growth.”

Yes, if we steal money from future generations it will artificially inflate our current standard of living and make our economy look temporarily better than it should be.

But it is morally wrong to do this, and our current crop of politicians have no intentions of ever bringing the debt party to an end.

Even with the ridiculously optimistic economic assumptions that are used in Obama’s new budget, the federal budget is never projected to balance within the next decade.  Instead, Obama’s budget projects that the national debt will rise from 18.1 trillion dollars right now to 26.2 trillion dollars in 2025.

Of course it would greatly help if the federal government actually spent our money wisely.  But instead, the feds often waste our hard-earned tax dollars in some of the most bizarre ways imaginable.  The following is just one example

The U.S. federal government has prompted controversy after spending over $33,000 on a study to find out whether same-sex couples live closer to tobacco shops than heterosexuals.

The large sum was spent on a study by the National Institutes of Health entitled, ‘Relationship Between Tobacco Retailer Density and Sexual Minority Couples.’

Thanks to this kind of insane spending, our debt is completely and totally out of control.

While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the U.S. national debt has increased by $84,266 per full-time private sector worker.  Anyone that believes that this kind of debt accumulation is sustainable is absolutely delusional.

The only reason why our house of cards has not completely collapsed already is because the rest of the world has been willing to lend us gigantic piles of money at artificially low interest rates.

In December, the average rate of interest on the government’s marketable debt was 2.013 percent.  But in the past, interest rates have been much higher than that.  For example, in January 2000 the average rate of interest on the government’s marketable debt was 6.620 percent.  If we returned to that level today, we would be paying well over a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.

And the issue isn’t just the more than one trillion dollars in new debt that we are accumulating every 12 months.

As I have discussed previously, the U.S. government has more than seven trillion dollars of debt that must be “rolled over” each year.  In other words, the federal government must issue more than seven trillion dollars of new debt just to pay off old debts that are coming due.

If something were to happen which would cause the rest of the planet to either be unwilling or unable to lend us trillions of dollars at ridiculously low interest rates all of a sudden, the game would be over.

We were handed the keys to the greatest and most prosperous economy in the history of the planet, and our greed has totally wrecked it.

We were wealthy beyond imagination, but that was never good enough for us.  We always had to have more.

And now we are hurtling toward financial oblivion, and we have a man in the White House that wants us to go into debt even faster.

 

This Housing Chart Destroys The Arguments Of The Economic Optimists

Chart - Public DomainDid you know that the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen to a 20 year low?  Did you know that it has been falling consistently for an entire decade?  For the past couple of years, the economic optimists have been telling us that the economy has been getting better.  Well, if the economy really has been getting better, why does the homeownership rate keep going down?  Yes, the ultra-wealthy have received a temporary financial windfall thanks to the reckless money printing the Federal Reserve has been doing, but for most Americans economic conditions have not been improving.  This is clearly demonstrated by the housing chart that I am about to share with you.  If the economy really was healthy, more people would be getting good jobs and thus would be able to buy homes.  But instead, the homeownership rate has continued to plummet throughout the entire “Obama recovery”.  I think that this chart speaks for itself…

Homeownership Rate 2015

Of course this homeownership collapse began well before Barack Obama entered the White House.  Our economic problems are the result of decades of incredibly bad decisions.  But anyone that believes that things have “turned around” for the middle class under Barack Obama is just being delusional.

If the U.S. economy truly was in “good shape”, the percentage of Americans that own homes would not be at a 20 year low

The U.S. homeownership rate fell to the lowest in more than two decades in the fourth quarter as many would-be buyers stayed on the sidelines, giving the rental market a boost.

The share of Americans who own their homes was 64 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 64.4 percent in the previous three months, the Census Bureau said in a report. The rate was at the lowest since the second quarter of 1994, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Rising prices and a tight supply of lower-end listings have put homes out of reach for some entry-level buyers, who also face strict mortgage standards. The share of U.S. homebuyers making their first purchase dropped in 2014 to the lowest level in almost three decades, the National Association of Realtors reported last week.

And it appears that this trend is actually accelerating.  During 2014, the rate of homeownership plummeted by a total of 1.2 percentage points for the year.  That was the largest one year decline that has ever been measured.

So why is this happening?

Well, in order to buy a home you have got to have a good job, and good jobs are in very short supply these days.

Over the past decade, the quality of the jobs in our economy has steadily declined as good jobs have been replaced by low paying jobs.  In addition, government policies are absolutely murdering small business.  At this point, small business ownership in the U.S. is hovering near record lows.

This has resulted in millions of people falling out of the middle class, and it has contributed to the growing divide between the wealthy and the rest of the country.

If our economy was working the way that it should, the middle class would be thriving.

But instead, it is being systematically destroyed.  If you doubt this, I have some statistics that I would like to share with you.  The following facts come from my previous article entitled “The Death Of The American Dream In 22 Numbers“…

#1 The Obama administration tells us that 8.69 million Americans are “officially unemployed” and that 92.90 million Americans are considered to be “not in the labor force”.  That means that more than 101 million U.S. adults do not have a job right now.

#2 One recent survey discovered that 55 percent of Americans believe that the American Dream either never existed or that it no longer exists.

#3 Considering the fact that Obama is in the White House, it is somewhat surprising that 55 percent of all Republicans still believe in the American Dream, but only 33 percent of all Democrats do.

#4 After adjusting for inflation, median household income has fallen by nearly $5,000 since 2007.

#5 After adjusting for inflation, “the median wealth figure for middle-income families” fell from $78,000 in 1983 to $63,800 in 2013.

#6 At this point, 59 percent of Americans believe that “the American dream has become impossible for most people to achieve”.

You can read the rest of that article right here.

The group that has been hit the hardest by all of this has been young adults.

Back in 2005, the homeownership rate for households headed up by someone under the age of 35 was approximately 43 percent.

Today, it has declined to about 35 percent.

From a very early age, we push our young people to go to college, and today more of them are getting secondary education than ever before.

But when they leave school, the “good jobs” that we promised them are often not there, and most of them end up entering the “real world” already loaded down with massive amounts of debt.

According to the Pew Research Center, close to four out of every ten households that are led by someone under the age of 40 are currently paying off student loan debt.

It is hard to believe, but total student loan debt in this country is now actually higher than total credit card debt.  At this point, student loan debt has reached a grand total of 1.2 trillion dollars, and that number has grown by an astounding 84 percent just since 2008.

If you are already burdened with tens of thousands (or in some cases hundreds of thousands) of dollars of debt when you get out of school and you can’t find a decent job, there is no way that you are going to be able to afford to buy a house.

So we have millions upon millions of young people that should be buying homes and starting families that are living with their parents instead.

Back in 1968, well over 50 percent of all Americans in the 18 to 31-year-old age bracket were already married and living on their own.

But today, that number is actually below 25 percent.  Instead, approximately 31 percent of all U.S. adults in the 18 to 34-year-old age bracket are currently living with their parents.

Something has fundamentally gone wrong.

Our economy is broken, and anyone that cannot see this is just being foolish.

So what is the solution?

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

This Is The Beginning Of The End For The Euro

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Euro Is Collapsing

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

How low could it ultimately go?

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

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

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

I totally agree with Chandler.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what do you think?

Do you agree with Marc Faber?

And what do you think is next for the euro?

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

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

What In The World Just Happened In Switzerland?

Swiss Francs - Public DomainCentral banks lie.  That is what they do.  Not too long ago, the Swiss National Bank promised that it would defend the euro/Swiss franc currency peg with the “utmost determination”.  But on Thursday, the central bank shocked the financial world by abruptly abandoning it.  More than three years ago, the Swiss National Bank announced that it would not allow the Swiss franc to fall below 1.20 to the euro, and it has spent a mountain of money defending that peg.  But now that it looks like the EU is going to launch a very robust quantitative easing program, the Swiss National Bank has thrown in the towel.  It was simply going to cost way too much to continue to defend the currency floor.  So now there is panic all over Europe.  On Thursday, the Swiss franc rose a staggering 30 percent against the euro, and the Swiss stock market plunged by 10 percent.  And all over the world, investors, hedge funds and central banks either lost or made gigantic piles of money as currency rates shifted at an unprecedented rate.  It is going to take months to really measure the damage that has been done.  Meanwhile, the euro is in greater danger than ever.  The euro has been declining for months, and now the number one buyer of euros (the Swiss National Bank) has been removed from the equation.  As things in Europe continue to get even worse, expect the euro to go to all-time record lows.  In addition, it is important to remember that the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s began when Thailand abandoned its currency peg.  With this move by Switzerland set off a European financial crisis?

Of course this is hardly the first time that we have seen central banks lie.  In the United States, the Federal Reserve does it all the time.  The funny thing is that most people still seem to trust what central banks have to say.  But at some point they are going to start to lose all credibility.

Financial markets like predictability.  And gigantic amounts of money had been invested based on the repeated promises of the Swiss National Bank to use “unlimited amounts” of money to defend the currency floor.  Needless to say, there are a lot of people in the financial world that feel totally betrayed by the Swiss National Bank today.  The following comes from an analysis of the situation by Bruce Krasting

Thomas Jordan, the head of the SNB has repeated said that the Franc peg would last forever, and that he would be willing to intervene in “Unlimited Amounts” in support of the peg. Jordan has folded on his promise like a cheap suit in the rain. When push came to shove, Jordan failed to deliver.

The Swiss economy will rapidly fall into recession as a result of the SNB move. The Swiss stock market has been blasted, the currency is now nearly 20% higher than it was a day before. Someone will have to fall on the sword, the arrows are pointing at Jordan.

The dust has not settled on this development as of this morning. I will stick my neck out and say that the failure to hold the minimum rate will result in a one time loss for the SNB of close to $100B. That’s a huge amount of money. It comes to 20% of the Swiss GDP!

Most experts are calling this an extremely bad move by the Swiss National Bank.

But in the end, they may have had little choice.

The euro is falling apart, and the Swiss did not want to be married to it any longer.  Unfortunately, when any marriage ends the pain can be enormous.  The following comes from CNBC

How do you know you’re looking at a bad marriage?

Well if one or both of the spouses can’t wait to get out as soon as the smallest crack in the door opens, you have a pretty good clue.

Something like that just happened in Europe as we learned the real reason why so many traders were still invested in the euro: They had nowhere else to go.

As the Swiss National Bank unlocked the doors on its cap on trading euros for Swiss francs, the rush to exit the euro was faster than one of those French bullet trains.

But this move has not been bad for everyone.  In fact, for many of those that live in Switzerland but work in neighboring countries what happened on Thursday was very fortuitous

“I heard the news this morning. I’m so happy!” Vanessa, who refused to give her last name, told AFP outside of one of many mobbed exchange offices in Geneva.

She has reason to be extatic: she is one of some 280,000 people working in Switzerland but living and paying bills in eurozone countries France, Germany or Italy.

These so-called “frontaliers”, or border-crossers, are the biggest winners in Thursday’s Swiss franc surge, seeing their incomes jump 30 percent in the blink of an eye.

In normal times, things like this very rarely happen.

But in times of crisis, things can change very rapidly.  We are moving into a time of great volatility in global financial markets, and great volatility is often a sign that a great crash is coming.

This move by the Swiss National Bank is just the beginning.  Expect more desperate moves on the global economic chessboard in the days ahead.  But in the end, none of those moves is going to prevent what is coming.

And one of these days, another extremely important currency peg is going to end.  Right now, the Chinese have tied their currency very tightly to the U.S. dollar.  This has helped to artificially inflate the value of the dollar.  Unfortunately, as Robert Wenzel has noted, someday the Chinese could suddenly pull the rug out from under our currency, and that would be really bad news for us…

In other words, the SNB is no People’s Bank of China type patsy, where the PBOC has taken on massive amounts of dollar reserves to prop up the dollar.

Will the PBOC learn anything from SNB? If so, this will not be good for the US dollar.

So keep a close eye on what happens in Europe next.

It is going to be a preview of what is eventually coming to America.

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