When it comes to materialism, has any nation ever surpassed what we are seeing in the United States right now? We define our lives by how much stuff we have, to a large degree our personal and business relationships are defined by how much money we make, and even most of the important dates on our calendar are all about materialism. Just think about it. We throw outrageous birthday parties for our kids and we shower them with gifts. Most of our “holidays” have become highly materialistic, and the biggest holiday of all in our society, Christmas, is an absolute orgy of materialism. We make lists of the “wealthiest Americans” and we glorify their achievements. We spend most of our time either making money or spending it. Even the phrase “the American Dream” reveals how materialistic we are. When most people are asked what “the American Dream” is, they start talking about a house, a car, vacations, retirement, sending your kids to college, etc. The American Dream has become all about money and stuff. Sadly, no matter how big our homes are and no matter how many shiny new toys we accumulate, we never seem to be happy. We always want more, and we always seem to be willing to go into more debt to get it. We are the most materialistic society in the history of the world, and our endless greed is going to end up swallowing us alive.
When it comes to materialism in America, there are outrageous examples all around us, but one of my favorite examples is the “Rich Kids of Instagram“. It is a Tumblr blog of photos from Instagram of young Americans showing off how they are enjoying the vast wealth of their parents. The following is how the Washington Post describes the blog….
The controversial new Tumblr is a collection of snapshots from the photo-sharing site that depicts the children of wealth and privilege — summering in the Hamptons, lounging on yachts and posing by their luxury cars.
One does a back-flip out of a helicopter near St. Tropez. Others snap pictures of their restaurant bills — allegedly paying thousands of dollars for lobster, champagne and high-end liquor.
In the warm patina of the Instagram, the youngsters appear to be living over-the-top lifestyles — and enjoying every moment.
“Our everyday is better than your best day,” reads one caption, a bit tauntingly. And, “Do you have a horse in your backyard? Didn’t think so.”
But just because you have a horse on your property does that make your life better than the rest of our lives?
Of course not.
Wealth does not equal happiness.
Unfortunately, however, most Americans have totally bought into this lie.
Most Americans believe that more money equals a better life.
In response to “the Rich Kids of Instagram”, the Huffington Post recently put together a piece entitled “the Rich Cats of Instagram” that features photos of cats as they “model upscale accessories, lounge with bottles of champagne, sail on yachts and ponder life while relaxing atop piles of money.”
Of course a lot of those pictures are quite funny, but they also reveal a deep truth about our society.
We have spent our lives chasing after the almighty dollar thinking that it will make us happy. Study after study has shown that we tend to link wealth and happiness. The following is from a recent NBC News article about one of those studies….
Many parents already know older children can be materialistic. Some tweens not only want the latest games and clothes, but also think owning these things will bring them happiness, friends and popularity. And marketers are eager to get them to buy: Tweens spend $28 billion a year, not including the more than $200 billion their parents spend on them, according to market research company C+R Research.
But even though we have an incredibly high standard of living compared to most of the rest of the world, are most of us actually happy?
No way. In fact, Americans take more anti-depressants than anyone else on the planet.
It is really easy to get caught up in materialism though. Let me share an example from my own life.
Several months ago our old truck completely died. Instead of pouring thousands of more dollars into fixing it, we decided that we would get another used truck.
So the other day I stopped by a dealership while my wife was grabbing some things from Home Depot. The salesperson started showing me some of the used trucks on the lot, but after a while I suggested that he show me some of the new trucks that were sitting on the other side of the lot.
Before I knew it, I was sitting in the most expensive truck on the lot and he was showing me all of the cool features it had.
And I have to admit – for a few moments there I was really enamored with that truck. It was the coolest truck that I had ever seen in my life.
Of course my wife and I don’t need a truck like that. We only need to haul stuff around a few times a month. And we certainly do not need the amount of debt that it would take to buy such a truck.
But for a few moments there I really wanted it. The pull of materialism can be very strong.
So would that truck have “changed my life” or brought me lasting happiness?
Of course not.
It would have brought some thrills for the first couple of days, but after a while it would just be sitting in the garage taking up space just like any other truck would.
So did I end up buying a truck?
Not yet. But we need one soon. My wife has been without a truck for quite a few months now and she is getting impatient.
But whether we get a nice used truck or a used truck that has one foot in the grave, it really isn’t going to change our lives much.
In the end, our lives should not be defined by what we own or by how much money we have in the bank.
But how do we refer to ourselves in this day and age?
The American people are called “consumers” and the truth is that we consume far more than anyone else on the globe does.
Just look at our eating habits. Of all the major industrialized nations, America is the most obese.
The next time you go into a store, take note of how many people are overweight.
It has not always been this way. Back in 1962, only 13 percent of all Americans were obese.
But now overeating is a national sport. At this point, approximately 36 percent of all Americans are obese, and it is being projected that number will rise to 42 percent by 2030.
While we are gorging ourselves with food, what else do we like to do?
That’s right – we love to watch television. In fact, the average American watches 28 hours of television every single week.
We have become completely and totally addicted to entertainment, and we have become trained to be constantly “plugged in” to something.
Our lives have become all about constantly feeding our greed and our selfishness. In fact, that is a major reason for the breakdown of the family in America. We tend to view marriage as a temporary condition that can be quickly discarded when it no longer makes us happy.
Sadly, the United States has the highest divorce rate in the world by a very wide margin at this point.
In addition, more Americans than ever are putting off marriage these days. Young Americans are being told that “an education” and “a career” are more important. According to the Pew Research Center, only 51 percent of all American adults are currently married. Back in 1960, 72 percent of all adults in America were married.
As a result of these factors, we are an incredibly lonely nation. Today, the United States has the highest percentage of one person households on the entire globe.
In order to fill the void, the American people turn to things that will numb the pain. American use more legal drugs than anyone else on the planet and they also use more illegal drugs than anyone else on the planet.
We have more “stuff” than any other society in the history of the world has ever had, but it has not made us happy.
And how did we pay for all of this?
We paid for a lot of this with debt. In fact, we have accumulated the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world.
But the federal government is not the only one with a debt problem. The truth is that our entire society is absolutely drowning in debt.
Over the past 50 years, the total amount of debt in the U.S. has grown from less than a trillion dollars to nearly 55 trillion dollars….
We have used massive amounts of debt in an attempt to feed our endless greed and materialism and we have gotten ourselves into a whole lot of trouble.
This is one of the reasons why I write. I want people to understand how bad things have really gotten.
Thanks to our foolishness, our economy has been declining, it is going to continue to decline, and a massive economic collapse is coming.
Some people believe that this is a message of “doom and gloom”, but that is not the case at all.
Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that somehow everything is going to be just fine is not going to do anyone any good.
Instead, I believe that warning people about the coming economic collapse is a message of hope.
There is hope in understanding what is happening, developing a plan to deal with it, and preparing yourself and your family for the storm that is coming.
It is the people that are ignoring all of the warnings that are going to be in real trouble.
Millions upon millions of people will be absolutely blindsided by what is coming. Many will give in to total despair once they realize that their prosperity is gone and they have done nothing to prepare for what they are now facing.
My hope is that the information that I write about will be shocking enough that it will wake people up and motivate them to get prepared so that they can handle the incredibly challenging years that are ahead.
And the truth is that our lives should not be about our money and our stuff anyway.
Your possessions are just temporary. None of them are going to last forever and you certainly cannot take them with you when you die.
Even though our economy has had some rough times, we still have a higher standard of living than 99 percent of the humans that have ever lived on this planet have had.
You would think that would be enough for us.
But it isn’t. We have hoarded our wealth and we have lived in luxury and self-indulgence.
When our debt-fueled prosperity disappears, most Americans are not going to know how to handle it.
Most Americans will believe that their lives are “over” at that point.
But those that are not caught up in materialism and that have prepared for what is ahead will understand that the next chapters of their lives can be the greatest chapters of all.
New numbers that have just been released show that things are getting worse for American families. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income declined to $50,054 in 2011. That is a 1.5 percent decline from the previous year, and median household income has now fallen for 4 years in a row. In fact, after adjusting for inflation median household income has not been this low since 1995. These new numbers once again confirm what so many of us have been talking about for so long – American families are steadily getting poorer. Incomes are going down and the cost of living just keeps going up. This dynamic is squeezing more Americans out of the middle class every single month. Others just keep going into more debt in an attempt to maintain their previous lifestyles. As Americans, we really don’t like to hear that things are getting worse and that we are in decline, but unfortunately that is exactly what is happening. Our economy does not produce nearly enough jobs for everyone anymore, the proportion of low wage jobs in our economy continues to grow, and the middle class is shrinking at an alarming rate. Our politicians can deliver speeches about how great we all are until the cows come home, but it isn’t going to change the reality of our situation. If we want different results we have got to start taking different actions.
When you take the median household income of $50,054 and divide it up over 12 months, it comes to about $4000 a month.
About half of all American households are making more than that and about half of all American households are making less than that.
So can an average family of four people make it on just $4000 a month?
Well, first of all you have got to take out taxes. After accounting for all forms of taxation you will be lucky if you have $3000 remaining.
With that $3000, you have to pay for all of the following.
*At Least One Vehicle
*Home Or Rental Insurance
*Student Loan Debt Payments
*Credit Card Payments
*Entertainment (although it is hard to imagine any money will be left for that)
Have I left anything out?
The truth is that $3000 does not go as far as it used to.
No wonder American families are feeling so stretched financially these days.
Most families can’t even afford to think about retirement or investments because most of them are just trying to figure out a way to survive from month to month.
Unfortunately, economic conditions for middle income Americans continue to deteriorate. Being in the middle class in America is like playing a perverse game of musical chairs. More chairs are constantly being pulled out of the game and the middle class just continues to shrivel up.
The following are some more statistics that show that things are getting worse….
-In 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance. Today, only 55.1 percent are covered by employment-based health insurance.
-Health insurance premiums rose faster than the overall rate of inflation in 2011 and that is happening once again in 2012. In fact, it is been happening for a very long time.
-In the United States today, there are close to 10 million households that do not have a single bank account. That number has increased by about a million since 2009.
-Back in 1962, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans had 125 times the net worth of the median household. Today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans has 288 times the net worth of the median household.
-Back in 2007, 19.2 percent of all American families had a net worth of zero or less than zero. By 2010, that figure had soared to 32.5 percent.
-According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 32 percent of all Americans now identify themselves as “lower class”. In 2008, that figure was only at 25 percent.
-As I have written about previously, 61 percent of all Americans were “middle income” back in 1971 according to the Pew Research Center. Today, only 51 percent of all Americans are “middle income”.
-Sadly, 60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.
-At this point, less than 25 percent of all jobs in the United States are “good jobs”, and that number continues to shrink.
-The percentage of working age Americans that are employed is smaller now than it was two years ago.
-The number of Americans that are financially dependent on the government is sitting at an all-time record, and it just keeps going up.
-If the labor force participation rate was the same today as it was back when Barack Obama first took office, the unemployment rate in the United States would be 11.2 percent.
That last statistic deserves some special attention.
If the exact same percentage of Americans were considered to be “in the work force” today as when Barack Obama became president, the unemployment rate in this country would be well over 11 percent.
But the federal government has pretended that millions upon millions of Americans have “left the work force” over the past few years and that allows them to tell the fib that the unemployment rate has actually declined to 8.1 percent.
Of course we all know that is a bunch of nonsense. About the same percentage of Americans want a job today as was the case back in 2008.
But 8.1 percent looks way better than 11.2 percent does.
What makes all of this even more distressing is that this is the recovery.
Things are not going to be getting much better than this. We are rapidly approaching the next wave of the economic collapse and all of the numbers posted above are going to be getting a lot worse.
So even though things may be tight for your family right now, you should enjoy these times while you still have them.
Someday we will look back on these years as “the good old days”.
Has Europe finally been saved this time? Has this latest “breakthrough” solved the European debt crisis? Of course not, and you should know better by now. European leaders have held 18 summits since the beginning of the debt crisis. After most of the preceding summits, global financial markets responded with joy because European leaders had reached “a deal” which would supposedly solve the crisis. But a few weeks after each summit it would become clear that nothing had been solved and that the financial crisis had actually gotten even worse than before. How many times do they expect us to fall for the same sorry routine? Nothing in Europe has been solved. You can’t solve a debt problem with more debt. European leaders are just kicking the can down the road. More debt will relieve some of the short-term pressure, but in a few weeks it will be apparent that the underlying problems in Europe continue to grow. Unfortunately, there is not an unlimited amount of EU bailout money, so once all of these “financial bullets” have been fired European leaders are going to find that kicking the can down the road will not be so easy anymore. The truth is that the financial crisis in Europe has not been cancelled – it has just been put off for a few weeks or a few months.
Do you solve the problems of a credit card addict by giving that person another credit card? Of course not. You may delay the short-term financial problems of the credit card addict by giving that person another credit card, but in the process you make the long-term problems even worse.
Well, that is essentially what is happening in Europe. European governments and the European financial system have become ridiculously dependent on debt. By giving European debt junkies another “hit” or two it may relieve a bit of short-term suffering but it doesn’t solve anything.
Just think about it.
Did the first bailout package solve the problems in Greece?
Did the second bailout package solve the problems in Greece?
Today, the Greek financial system is a complete and total mess, and Greek politicians are saying that a third bailout package may be necessary.
Many are claiming that Italy and Spain have been “saved” by this new deal, but that is a joke.
Yes, the ability to inject bailout funds directly into troubled banks is going to keep some of them going for a little while. But the deal also calls for a new governing body to be established that will supervise those banks. Will that governing body be established in time to even provide the short-term help that is needed?
Yes, spending bailout funds to buy up Spanish debt and Italian debt will artificially suppress bond yields for a time.
We have seen this before.
But what happened?
After the bond buying program was over, bond yields started spiking again.
So do the Europeans plan to suppress bond yields forever?
Of course not. There is not enough bailout money to do that.
Brutal austerity + toxic levels of government debt + rising bond yields + a lack of confidence in the financial system + banks that are massively overleveraged + a massive credit crunch = A financial implosion of historic proportions
Have any of those elements been removed?
Bond yields will be suppressed for a period of time, but that will not last forever, and all of the other underlying issues are still there.
Meanwhile, the rest of Europe continues to follow the Greek economy into economic depression.
The Spanish economy shrunk again in the second quarter of 2012, and austerity in that nation has barely even begun.
As a recent CNBC article detailed, the big spending cuts are still coming….
The conservatives, who inherited from the outgoing Socialists one of the euro zone’s highest public deficits, at 8.9 percent of GDP in 2011, have said they will shrink the shortfall to 5.3 percent this year and 3 percent in 2013.
Austerity has absolutely shredded the Greek economy, and we are starting to see that same pattern be repeated all over Europe.
When you spend far more money than you bring in for decades, eventually you have to go through a very painful adjustment. What is going on in Greece should be a lesson for all of us. Debt allows you to live above your means, but the consequences of going into way too much debt can be absolutely horrific.
More debt can delay the consequences of a debt problem but it cannot solve a debt problem. The following is what Jim Rogers told CNBC on Friday….
“Just because now you have a way to get them (the banks) to borrow even more money, this is not solving the problem, this is making the problem worse,” Rogers said on Friday.
“People need to stop spending money they don’t have. The solution to too much debt is not more debt. All this little agreement does is give them (banks) a chance to have even more debt for a while longer,” he added.
But if you just went by the headlines in most of the newspapers around the world you would think that European leaders had discovered the cure for cancer or something.
Sadly, the truth is that they are simply choosing to fire off a few of the “financial bullets” that they still have left as a recent Washington Post article described….
The European bailout funds don’t have unlimited resources. If they throw $125 billion at Spain’s banks and another couple hundred billion toward Italy, pretty soon they’ll be running low. The only entity with unlimited euros is the European Central Bank. And right now, there’s no talk of using the ECB to provide bailouts. Which means that this latest move might have just forestalled the crisis, rather than ending it permanently.
So what comes next?
Bruce Krasting believes that the “half-life of this bailout will be measured in weeks”. The following is his summary of what he sees coming next in Europe….
If I’m right, after a few weeks things turn south again in the capital markets. Then what?
- More LTRO. No – there is no more collateral. All of the swill loans have already been hocked.
- Cut ECB % rate. Doesn’t matter. It won’t change conditions in Italian or Spanish funding markets one bit.
- A spending plan of <1% of GDP. That won’t put a dent in the recession that is building.
- Brussels buys more sovereign bonds to avoid a catastrophe of Italian 10-year exceeding 7% (capitulation). Sorry. There are “wise men” in Germany who will simply not allow this to happen in the scale that is required.
- The ECB goes Defcon 1 and launches a E2T QE program. No – same answer as above.
- Merkel does a 180 and embraces Euro bonds. No chance in hell.
-The US or China are going to start buying EU bonds? Lunacy – not happening.
-The IMF will come to the rescue? No way – the IMF does not have the resources to solve anyone’s problems.
In other words, kicking the can down the road is going to get quite a bit harder after the current “sugar high” wears off.
Europe is still headed for the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression (at least) and European leaders seem powerless to stop it.
Of course the United States is also facing a crisis of too much debt and a great day of reckoning is on the way for this country as well.
What is the biggest economic problem that the United States is facing? Very simply, our biggest problem is that we have way too much debt. Over the past 30 years, household debt, corporate debt and government debt have all grown much faster than our GDP has. But no nation on earth has ever been able to expand debt much faster than national output indefinitely. All debt bubbles eventually burst. Right now, we are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world. All of this debt has fueled a “false prosperity” which has enabled many Americans to live like kings and queens. But no nation (or household) can pile on more debt forever. At some point the weight of the debt becomes just too great. It is amazing that the United States has been able to pile up as much debt as it has. Over the years, many authors have predicted that U.S. government finances would collapse long before the U.S. national debt ever got to this level. So the mountain of debt that we have accumulated is quite an “achievement” if you want to look at it that way. But the clock is ticking on this debt bubble and when it collapses we will say “bye bye” to our vastly inflated standard of living and we will discover that we have destroyed the economy for all future generations of Americans.
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. When most Americans think of the “debt problem” in this country, they think of the debt of the federal government.
But that is not the only debt bubble that we are facing.
Thirty years ago, household debt in the United States was approaching the 2 trillion dollar mark. Today, it is sitting at about 13 trillion dollars….
We have been trained to pay for everything with debt.
We pay for our homes with debt, and mortgage debt as a percentage of GDP has more than tripled since 1955.
We pay for our cars with debt, and at this point about 70 percent of all auto purchases in the United States involve an auto loan.
We pay for higher education with debt, and the total amount of student loan debt in America recently surpassed the one trillion dollar mark.
Wherever we go we pay with plastic.
If you want a heated cat bed and a cute little cat sweater for your little kitty just put it on your Visa or Mastercard.
Amazingly, consumer debt in America has risen by a whopping 1700% since 1971, and if you can believe it, 46% of all Americans carry a credit card balance from month to month.
We are absolutely addicted to debt and we do not know how to stop.
State And Local Government Debt
Our state and local governments are also addicted to debt.
30 years ago, state and local government debt was approaching the 400 million dollar mark. Today, state and local government debt is hovering around the 3 trillion dollar mark….
In the United States today, we don’t just have one “government debt problem” – the truth is that we have hundreds of them. All over the country, state and local governments are facing bankruptcy because of too much debt.
For example, according to Fox News the city of Stockton, California is right on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. In fact, an announcement could come as early as this week….
Stockton, Calif., is set to declare bankruptcy as early as this week, according to local officials, a move that would make it one of the largest U.S. cities ever to file for reorganization.
On Monday, a state-required mediation with creditors to find a fiscal solution is scheduled to expire. Stockton’s City Council is then slated to meet Tuesday to decide whether to adopt a budget for operating in bankruptcy, a move widely considered the last step before the city formally submits a Chapter 9 petition to federal bankruptcy court.
Federal Government Debt
Of course the biggest offender of all is the federal government. 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan was running around proclaiming what a nightmare it was that the U.S. national debt was reaching the one trillion dollar mark.
Well, now we are about to blast through the 16 trillion dollar mark with no end in sight….
Running up debt at a much faster rate than our GDP is rising is a recipe for national financial suicide. Our politicians continue to steal about 150 million dollars an hour from future generations and everybody just acts like this is perfectly normal.
We are going down the same path that Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain have gone.
In fact, we already have more government debt per capita than all of those nations do.
Since Barack Obama entered the White House, we have accumulated more than five trillion dollars of additional debt.
We are on the road to national financial oblivion, and most Americans don’t seem to care.
Debt From Sea To Shining Sea
Now let’s add up all the debt in the country. When you total up all household debt, business debt and government debt, it comes to more than 300% of our GDP….
In fact, if current trends continue we will hit 400% of GDP before too long.
As you can see from the chart, there was a little “hiccup” during the last recession, but now the debt bubble is growing again.
So how high can it go before the entire system collapses?
Total credit market debt owed is roughly 10 times larger than it was about 30 years ago.
How in the world did we accumulate 10 times more debt in just 30 years?
If we do that again in the next 30 years, our total debt will be more than 500 trillion dollars in the 2040s.
Unfortunately, that is the way that debt spirals work. They either have to keep expanding or they collapse.
So will the U.S. debt spiral continue to expand?
Or will we soon see a collapse?
Sadly, this exact same thing is happening all over the world. The government debt to GDP ratio in Japan (the third largest economy in the world) blew past the 200% mark quite a while ago, and almost every country in the EU is absolutely drowning in debt.
The world has never faced anything quite like this. There is way, way too much debt in the world, but the only way we can continue to enjoy this level of prosperity under the current system is to pile up a lot more debt.
The western world is like a debt addict in a deep state of denial. Some debt addicts end up with dozens of credit card accounts. They will keep opening more accounts as long as someone will let them. Most debt addicts actually believe that they will be able to get out of the hole at some point, but most never do.
Most Americans still believe that we are experiencing “temporary” economic problems that will eventually go away. Most Americans still believe that even greater prosperity is still ahead.
Sadly, what the mainstream media and the two major political parties are telling them is a bunch of lies.
We have enjoyed the greatest prosperity that we will ever see in the United States, and when the debt bubble bursts there is going to be an immense amount of pain.
That is a very painful truth, but it is better to come to grips with it now than be blindsided by it later.
In recent days, New York Times economist Paul Krugman has been doing a whole bunch of interviews in which he has declared that the solution to our economic problems is very easy. Krugman says that all we need to do to get the global economy going again is for the governments of the world to start spending a lot more money. Krugman believes that austerity is only going to cause the economies of the industrialized world to slow down even further and therefore he says that it is the wrong approach. And you know what? Krugman is partly right about all of this. The false prosperity that the United States and Europe have been enjoying has been fueled by unprecedented amounts of debt, and in order to maintain that level of false prosperity we are going to need even larger amounts of debt. But there are several reasons why Krugman is mostly wrong. First of all, we have not seen any real “austerity” yet. Even though there have been some significant spending cuts and tax increases over in Europe, the truth is that nearly every European government is still piling up more debt at a frightening pace. Here in the United States, the federal government continues to spend more than a trillion dollars a year more than it brings in. If the United States were to go to a balanced federal budget, that would be austerity. What we have now is wild spending by the federal government beyond anything that John Maynard Keynes ever dreamed of. Secondly, Krugman focuses all of his attention on making things more comfortable for all of us in the short-term without even mentioning what we might be doing to future generations. Yes, more government debt would give us a short-term economic boost, but it would also make the long-term financial problems that we are passing on to our children even worse.
It is important to understand that Paul Krugman is a hardcore Keynesian. He believes that national governments can solve most economic problems simply by spending more money. His prescription for the U.S. economy in 2012 was summarized in a recent Rolling Stone article….
The basic issue, says Krugman, is a lack of demand. American consumers and businesses, aren’t spending enough, and efforts to get them to open their wallets have gone nowhere. Krugman’s solution: The federal government needs to step in and spend. A lot. On debt relief for struggling homeowners; on infrastructure projects; on aid to states and localities; on safety-net programs. Call it “stimulus” if you like. Call it Keynesian economics, after the great economic thinker (and Krugman idol) John Maynard Keynes, who first championed the idea that government has an essential role in saving the free market from its own excesses.
So is Krugman right?
Would the U.S. economy improve if the federal government borrowed and spent an extra half a trillion dollars this year for example?
Yes, it would.
But it would also get us half a trillion dollars closer to bankruptcy as a nation.
Krugman claims that “austerity” has failed, but the truth is that we have not even seen any real “austerity” yet.
When a government spends more than it brings in, that is not real austerity.
People talk about the “austerity” that we have seen in places such as Greece and Spain, but the truth is that both nations are still piling up huge amounts of new debt.
So let’s not pretend that the western world is serious about austerity.
The goal for most European nations at this point is to get their debts down to “sustainable” levels.
But for economists such as Krugman, this is a very bad idea. Krugman insists that cutting government spending during a recession is a very stupid thing to do. The following is from one of his recent articles in the New York Times….
For the past two years most policy makers in Europe and many politicians and pundits in America have been in thrall to a destructive economic doctrine. According to this doctrine, governments should respond to a severely depressed economy not the way the textbooks say they should — by spending more to offset falling private demand — but with fiscal austerity, slashing spending in an effort to balance their budgets.
Critics warned from the beginning that austerity in the face of depression would only make that depression worse. But the “austerians” insisted that the reverse would happen. Why? Confidence! “Confidence-inspiring policies will foster and not hamper economic recovery,” declared Jean-Claude Trichet, the former president of the European Central Bank — a claim echoed by Republicans in Congress here. Or as I put it way back when, the idea was that the confidence fairy would come in and reward policy makers for their fiscal virtue.
Yes, Krugman is correct that government austerity measures will only make a recession worse.
Just look at what has happened in Greece. Wave after wave of austerity measures has pushed Greece into an economic depression. If you want to see what austerity has done to the unemployment rate in Greece, just check out this chart.
As other nations across Europe have taken measures to get debt under control, we have seen similar economic results all across the continent.
But Paul Krugman does not consider this to be a major problem.
The Obama administration is currently stealing approximately 150 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every single hour to finance our reckless spending, but for Paul Krugman that is not nearly good enough.
To Krugman, the only thing that is important is what is happening right now. Apparently the future can be thrown into the toilet as far as he is concerned.
The founder of PIMCO, Bill Gross, told CNBC on Tuesday that the U.S. government is likely to be hit with another credit rating downgrade this year if something is not done about our exploding debt.
The United States already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain does.
But Krugman insists that the solution to our economic problems is even more debt and even more spending.
In a previous article, I detailed how we are doomed if the U.S. government keeps spending money wildly like this and we are doomed if the U.S. governments stops spending money wildly like this.
If we keep running trillion dollar deficits every year, at some point our financial system will collapse, the U.S. dollar will fail, and we will essentially be facing national bankruptcy.
But if the federal government stops borrowing and spending money like this, our debt-fueled prosperity will rapidly disappear, unemployment will shoot well up into double digits, and we will soon have mass rioting in major U.S. cities.
The truth is that we have already been following Paul Krugman’s economic prescription for the nation for decades. Our 15 trillion dollar party has funded a standard of living unlike anything the world has ever seen, but the party is coming to an end.
The Federal Reserve is trying to keep the party going by buying up huge amounts of government debt. The Fed actually purchased approximately 61 percent of all government debt issued by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2011.
It is a shell game that cannot go on for too much longer.
The national debt crisis can be delayed for a while, but at some point the house of cards is going to come crashing down on top of us all.
If Paul Krugman wanted to talk about real solutions he could talk about shutting down the Federal Reserve and he could talk about going to an entirely debt-free currency.
But we all know that is not going to happen, don’t we?
As I have written about before, the Federal Reserve was designed to be a perpetual government debt machine. The system was designed to have the amount of money and the amount of government debt constantly expand.
And it has been working quite well in that regard. At this point, the U.S. national debt is more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.
But Paul Krugman is not going to talk about the real issues. Instead, he is just going to keep running around declaring that more government spending and more government debt will solve all of our problems.
It is a very big lie, but millions of people are going to believe it.
Is there one thing that Tony Robbins, Ron Paul and Ben Bernanke can all agree on? Yes, there actually is. Recently they have all come forward with warnings that the national debt crisis could destroy America if something is not done. Unfortunately, our politicians continue to spend us into oblivion as if there will never be any consequences. When Barack Obama took office, the U.S. national debt was 10.6 trillion dollars. Today, it is 15.6 trillion dollars and it is rising at the rate of about 150 million dollars an hour. During the Obama administration so far, the U.S. government has accumulated more debt than it did from 1776 to 1995. The United States now has a debt to GDP ratio of over 100 percent, and another credit rating agency downgraded U.S. debt earlier this month. Any talk of a positive economic future is utter nonsense as long as we are bleeding red ink as a nation far faster than we ever have before. It is absolutely immoral to wreck the financial future of our children and our grandchildren and to leave them with a bill for the greatest mountain of debt in the history of the world, but that is exactly what we are doing. Unless our current debt-based financial system is thrown out, there are only two ways that this game is going to play out. One would involve absolutely bitter austerity and deflation unlike anything ever seen before, and the other would involve nightmarish hyperinflation. Either path would be hellish beyond what most Americans could possibly imagine.
Unfortunately, we are running out of time as a nation. You know that things are late in the game when the head of the Federal Reserve starts using apocalyptic language to talk about the national debt. The following is what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress recently….
Having a large and increasing level of government debt relative to national income runs the risk of serious economic consequences. Over the longer term, the current trajectory of federal debt threatens to crowd out private capital formation and thus reduce productivity growth. To the extent that increasing debt is financed by borrowing from abroad, a growing share of our future income would be devoted to interest payments on foreign-held federal debt. High levels of debt also impair the ability of policymakers to respond effectively to future economic shocks and other adverse events.
Even the prospect of unsustainable deficits has costs, including an increased possibility of a sudden fiscal crisis. As we have seen in a number of countries recently, interest rates can soar quickly if investors lose confidence in the ability of a government to manage its fiscal policy. Although historical experience and economic theory do not indicate the exact threshold at which the perceived risks associated with the U.S. public debt would increase markedly, we can be sure that, without corrective action, our fiscal trajectory will move the nation ever closer to that point.
The sick thing about this is that the Federal Reserve system is actually designed to generate government debt. The U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was created back in 1913. So it is kind of ironic that the head of the organization that was designed to perpetually generate U.S. government debt is now warning that there is too much of it.
But Ben Bernanke is far from alone in warning about the danger of our exploding national debt.
For example, world famous motivational speaker Tony Robbins is also warning that the national debt crisis could destroy our future.
These days, most people throw around the phrase “a trillion dollars” without ever really grasping what it means.
In the video posted below, Tony Robbins uses a fun illustration to help put in perspective how large a “trillion dollars” really is.
If you had a million seconds to do something, would you consider that to be a long time?
Well, it turns out that a million seconds is only about 12 days.
What about a billion seconds? Is that a long period of time?
Well, yes, a billion seconds is close to 32 years. So that is definitely a lot longer than a million seconds.
What about a trillion seconds?
How long do you think that is?
Well, a trillion seconds is about 31,688 years.
So when we talk about how the U.S. government is stealing more than a trillion dollars from future generations every single year, we are talking about an absolutely massive amount of money.
The Tony Robbins video about the national debt crisis posted below has started to go viral all over the Internet. If you have not seen it yet, I definitely recommend taking a few minutes to watch it….
So why are our politicians not doing anything about the U.S. debt crisis?
Well, it is because most of them value getting elected over and over again above doing what is right for future generations.
For the past four decades, the United States has been enjoying a 15 trillion dollar party. All of this borrowed money has enabled us to live far, far beyond our means.
If our politicians voted to severely cut spending or to raise taxes dramatically at this point, our economy would suddenly readjust to a more realistic standard of living. But that would be extremely painful and most Americans voters would be absolutely furious. They would demand that someone “fix” the economy immediately. But the truth is that what we have been enjoying all these years has not been real. It has been bought with trillions of dollars stolen from future generations. But most of our politicians just want to keep the party rolling as long as humanly possible so that they can keep getting voted back into office.
Fortunately, there are a few politicians that are willing to stand up and tell the truth about our national debt crisis. For example, in the video posted below Ron Paul scolds the rest of Congress for continuing to vote for debt limit increase after debt limit increase….
Unfortunately, the American people seem to prefer politicians that endlessly lie to them about how bad things really are.
For example, back at the beginning of the Bush administration we were promised that we would be swimming in gigantic surpluses by now.
That didn’t exactly work out, now did it?
Barack Obama promised us that he would cut the size of the federal budget deficit in half by the end of his first term.
Since 1975, we have added more than 15 trillion dollars to the national debt. In fact, the U.S. national debt is now more than 22 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter became president.
A lot of talking heads on television continue to assure us that everything is going to be okay, but the truth is that we are about to experience some absolutely devastating consequences for decades of really bad decisions.
For example, the rest of the world is rapidly losing faith in our currency and the reign of the U.S. dollar as the primary world reserve currency is in serious danger of coming to an end. When that happens, gasoline, food and just about everything else that you buy is going to be a lot more expensive.
Already, there are very ominous signs that the rest of the world is getting tired of financing our endless spending. In 2011, the Federal Reserve bought approximately 61 percent of all new government debt issued by the U.S. Treasury Department. This is not supposed to happen. The Federal Reserve is not supposed to be monetizing our debt and this is something that Congress should be looking into.
Also, at this time of the year people love to complain about the outrageous amount of taxes that most hard working Americans have to pay, but the truth is that eventually it will likely get a whole lot worse.
Just look at Greece. Taxes in Greece have been raised to suffocating levels, government spending has been slashed to the bone and yet they are still running up more debt.
That is going to happen in the United States at some point too, especially if our leaders choose the path of austerity and deflation.
You can’t hide from debt forever.
Have you ever run up debt on a credit card?
A lot of us did that when we were young and foolish, and it can be a lot of fun on the way up.
But eventually a day of reckoning comes and it is extremely painful to find yourself drowning in credit card debt.
Well, we are rapidly approaching our credit limit as a nation.
Some hard choices will have to be made, and there will be a lot of pain.
The false prosperity that we are enjoying now is going to disappear.
Now is the time to prepare for the massive economic shift that is coming. In the coming economic environment, those that are currently living month to month and those that are 100% dependent on the system are going to be in a huge amount of trouble.
Instead of wildly spending money as if the good times will never end like most Americans are, now is the time to get out of debt, to become more self-sufficient and to set aside the money, resources and supplies you will need to weather the storm that is rapidly approaching.
Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that a gigantic economic collapse is coming.
Use the time that you still have left to prepare the best that you can.
If you knew that you could live in luxury for the rest of your life but that by doing so it would absolutely destroy the future for your children, your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren would you do it? Well, that is exactly what we are doing as a nation. Over the past several decades, we have stolen 15 trillion dollars from future generations so that we could enjoy a dramatically inflated level of prosperity. Our 15 trillion dollar party has been a lot of fun, but what we have done to our children and our grandchildren has been beyond criminal. We ran up the greatest mountain of debt in the history of the planet and we are sticking them with the bill. Sadly, both political parties have been responsible for the big spending that has been going on. Both Democrats and Republicans have run up huge budget deficits when in power. But instead of learning the hard lessons of the past, both political parties continue to vote for even more debt. They would rather continue to steal trillions of dollars from future generations than have the party end and have to face the consequences.
And the consequences will be dramatic when the party ends. During fiscal year 2011, the U.S. government spent 3.7 trillion dollars but it only brought in 2.4 trillion dollars. That means that the U.S. government spent about 1.3 trillion dollars that it did not have. It is important to understand that even if the U.S. government spent that 1.3 trillion dollars on really stupid things, that money still got into the pockets of ordinary Americans who then spent it on things like food, gas, housing, etc. In turn, most of those that received money from providing those goods and services would spend it on other things.
So extra government spending can definitely stimulate the economy. The problem is that we have been doing it permanently. Since 1975, we have added more than 15 trillion dollars to the national debt. This has fueled a false prosperity that was way beyond what we could afford.
If the U.S. government tried to go to a balanced budget now, our standard of living would crash and there would be riots in the streets. The American people have been enjoying false prosperity for so long that they have lost any notion of what “normal” actually is.
Think of it this way. If your family makes $40,000 this year and you spend an extra $20,000 on your credit cards, your family would be enjoying a false sense of prosperity.
You could do that year after year as long as the credit card companies keep loaning you more money.
But debt always catches up with you in the end.
It is the same thing with the United States.
We have been running up our national credit card balance and the interest payments have become quite painful.
That is 454 billion dollars that the people of the United States do not receive anything in return for.
So in order to keep up with interest on the national debt and to enjoy a standard of living that is beyond our means we now have to run deficits that are in excess of a trillion dollars every single year.
And a trillion dollars is a staggering amount of money.
If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.
Since Barack Obama was elected, the U.S. government has added about 5 trillion more dollars to the national debt.
That kind of debt is a recipe for national financial suicide.
How are we supposed to explain to our children that we are passing a debt of $15,579,852,946,457.64 down to them?
At this point, the United States government is responsible for more than a third of all the government debt in the entire world.
The 15 trillion dollar party that we have been enjoying has been amazing, but all of that debt is soon going to bring us a tremendous amount of pain.
And there is really no way out under our current financial system. As our population ages, government budget deficits are projected to spiral wildly out of control in future years.
Already, entitlement programs are starting to cause massive problems. For example, mandatory federal spending surpassed total federal revenue for the first time ever in fiscal 2011. That was not supposed to happen until 50 years from now.
If the federal government used GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) like all publicly-traded corporations are required to do, the situation would be much worse.
The truth is that the U.S. government never had a “balanced budget” during the end of the Clinton administration. The federal government was borrowing gigantic amounts of money from the Social Security trust fund to finance regular government operations. It was a big fraud. Under GAAP, there would have been huge budget deficits during those years.
And even under the non-GAAP numbers used by the U.S. Treasury Department, the U.S. national debt still increased every single year during the Clinton administration.
So let’s get real.
Our national financial situation has always been much worse than we have been told.
And looking down the road a bit, we are facing a tsunami of unfunded liabilities that is absolutely nightmarish.
In other words, we have committed ourselves to tens of trillions of dollars of expenses that we don’t have any money for.
According to Professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff, the U.S. is facing a “fiscal gap” of over 200 trillion dollars in the coming years. The following is a brief excerpt from a recent article that he did for CNN….
The government’s total indebtedness — its fiscal gap — now stands at $211 trillion, by my arithmetic. The fiscal gap is the difference, measured in present value, between all projected future spending obligations — including our huge defense expenditures and massive entitlement programs, as well as making interest and principal payments on the official debt — and all projected future taxes.
And it just keeps getting worse. Recently it was revealed that Obamacare will add 17 trillion dollars more to our long-term unfunded obligations.
Basically what we have done is we have committed future generations to a life of endless debt slavery to pay for our debts and for the financial promises that we have made.
How could we be so stupid?
Of course this entire fraudulent system is going to completely collapse before we get too much farther down the road anyway. Right now the whole thing is essentially being held together by chicken wire and duct tape.
Most Americans do not realize this, but the Federal Reserve bought approximately 61 percent of all government debt issued by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2011.
Normally, the Federal Reserve is not supposed to be doing this.
But right now there are not nearly enough buyers of U.S. government debt at the super low interest rates that the U.S. government wants to pay. A recent Money News article explained that foreigners have been increasingly shying away from U.S. debt….
“In 2009, such foreign purchases of U.S. debt amounted to 6 percent of GDP and has since falled by over eighty percent to a paltry 0.9 percent.”
Instead of interest rates on U.S. Treasuries rising to attract additional investors, the U.S. Federal Reserve has been intervening to make up the difference.
This is essentially “monetizing the debt” and it is something that Ben Bernanke promised that he would never do.
But he is doing it.
If the Federal Reserve was not buying up all this debt, interest rates on U.S. debt would soar and so would U.S. government interest payments.
Yes, this is a giant Ponzi scheme and it cannot last for long.
Of course all of this could have been avoided if our politicians had not been running up such massive amounts of debt all these years.
Some have suggested that our problems could be solved by simply increasing taxes on the wealthy.
Well, the truth is that the top 5 percent of all income earners already pay nearly 50 percent of all federal taxes and soaking them even more will not even come close to solving the federal budget crisis.
For example, if Bill Gates gave every single penny of his fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for 15 days.
And as Bill Whittle has shown, you could take every single penny that every American earns above $250,000 and it would only fund about 38 percent of the federal budget.
So taxing the wealthy will certainly not solve all of our problems.
In fact, when you tax the wealthy and the “somewhat wealthy” it slows economic growth in a number of different ways.
Number one, they have less money to spend into the economy.
Number two, they have less money to invest in business activities.
Number three, it gives wealthy individuals and corporations more of an incentive to move out of the United States. As I have written about previously, the global elite are already hiding about 18 trillion dollars in offshore banks. The U.S. government keeps trying to tap into all of that offshore wealth, but the elite always seem to be a few steps ahead of the game.
Yes, we should try to close loopholes in the tax system, but the truth is that the root cause of our problem is that the federal government is simply spending way, way too much money.
Right now, spending by the federal government accounts for about 24 percent of GDP. Back in 2001, it accounted for just 18 percent.
But our politicians always want to put off spending cuts for another day because they know that immediate spending cuts would really hurt the economy.
“The time for austerity is not today,” Lew told NBC News “Meet the Press.” “If we were to put in austerity measures right now, it would take the economy in the wrong way.”
Yes, the Obama administration definitely does not want to hurt the economy with an election coming up in a few months.
So when will it be time to seriously cut government spending?
The day never seems to arrive.
But even though the federal government has been pumping more than a trillion extra dollars into the economy every year, the economy has not shown much improvement. The percentage of working age Americans that have jobs has barely budged for over two years.
Yes, the policies of the Obama administration have stabilized the U.S. economy for the moment, but if he was actually going to tell the truth he would say something like this….
“By mortgaging the future of our children and our grand-children I have stabilized our economic statistics for the short-term. Unfortunately, I am going to have to continue to financially abuse future generations to keep us from falling into another Great Depression. Meanwhile, I am making our long-term financial problems far, far worse. But the most important thing is that I win re-election so that I can continue to be president. Thank you for being so selfish and so willing to destroy the future of your children. Vote for me in 2012 and let the party continue!”
Unfortunately, the party is going to come crashing to an end at some point.
Right now, the global financial system is based on the U.S. dollar and on U.S. government debt.
There will come a time when the rest of the world is going to get sick and tired of watching this Ponzi scheme play out and they are going to completely lose faith in the U.S. dollar and in U.S. government debt. In fact, there are already signs that this is starting to happen.
When faith in our currency and our debt is completely gone, it will be nearly impossible to get back and the game will be over.
The false prosperity that we are experiencing right now is about as good as things are going to get.
Enjoy it while you still can, because when it is gone that will be the end of it.
Both the Democrats and the Republicans have failed us. They played fast and loose with our future and they never planned for the long-term.
Now we are facing a collapse of unprecedented magnitude that most Americans will never even see coming.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke claims that the Federal Reserve averted a second Great Depression by bailing out the big Wall Street banks during the last financial crisis, and he says that if a similar financial crisis comes along that the correct “policy response” will be to do the exact same thing again. This was the theme of the lecture that Bernanke delivered to students at George Washington University on Tuesday. In previous lectures Bernanke has defended the existence of the Fed and detailed the history of Fed activities, but on Tuesday he addressed things that have happened since he has been at the helm of the Fed. And according to Bernanke, he has been doing a great job. Bernanke told the students that the “threat of a second Great Depression was very real” and that the Federal Reserve did exactly what needed to be done to fix the financial system. Unfortunately, the truth is that all Bernanke did was kick the can a bit farther down the road. You can’t fix a debt problem with more debt, and the debt bubble we are living in today is far larger than it was in 2008. Will Bernanke still be trying to portray himself as a hero when this house of cards finally falls apart?
During his lecture to the students on Tuesday, Bernanke stated the following….
“I think the view is increasingly gaining acceptance that without the forceful policy response that stabilized the financial system in 2008 and early 2009, we could have had a much worse outcome in the economy.”
So what did that “forceful policy response” entail?
Well, on slide 24 of his presentation to the students Bernanke tells us….
• On October 10, 2008, G‐7 countries agreed to work together to stabilize the global financial system. They agreed to – prevent the failure of systemically important financial institutions – ensure financial institutions’ access to funding and capital – restore depositor confidence – work to normalize credit markets
Please note that not all financial institutions got bailed out.
In fact, hundreds of small and mid-size U.S. banks failed during the financial crisis.
It was only the “systemically important financial institutions” that got bailed out.
So who decided which financial institutions were important enough to be bailed out?
The Federal Reserve made those decisions. There were no Congressional votes and no input from the public. The Federal Reserve determined who the winners and the losers would be in secret and without any public debate.
So once the Federal Reserve bailed out the “too big to fail” banks, what was the outcome?
On page 25 of his presentation to the students Bernanke claimed that the bailouts successfully prevented the global financial system from collapsing….
• The international policy response averted the collapse of the global financial system.
But it wasn’t just big Wall Street banks that got bailed out. Bernanke says that AIG was also bailed out because the insurance company was deemed to be too “interconnected with many other parts of the global financial system” to be allowed to fail….
Because AIG was interconnected with many other parts of the global financial system, its failure would have had a massive effect on other financial firms and markets.
Once again, we see that it is the Federal Reserve who picks the winners and the losers.
AIG got bailed out and was then able to pay 100 cents on the dollar of what it owed to Goldman Sachs.