The Beginning Of The End
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Too Big To Fail Banks Are Taking Over As Number Of U.S. Banks Falls To All-Time Record Low

Lower East Manhattan - Photo by Eric KilbyThe too big to fail banks have a larger share of the U.S. banking industry than they have ever had before.  So if having banks that were too big to fail was a “problem” back in 2008, what is it today?  As you will read about below, the total number of banks in the United States has fallen to a brand new all-time record low and that means that the health of the too big to fail banks is now more critical to our economy than ever.  In 1985, there were more than 18,000 banks in the United States.  Today, there are only 6,891 left, and that number continues to drop every single year.  That means that more than 10,000 U.S. banks have gone out of existence since 1985.  Meanwhile, the too big to fail banks just keep on getting even bigger.  In fact, the six largest banks in the United States (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) have collectively gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years.  If even one of those banks collapses, it would be absolutely crippling to the U.S. economy.  If several of them were to collapse at the same time, it could potentially plunge us into an economic depression unlike anything that this nation has ever seen before.

Incredibly, there were actually more banks in existence back during the days of the Great Depression than there is today.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the federal government has been keeping track of the number of banks since 1934 and this year is the very first time that the number has fallen below 7,000…

The number of federally insured institutions nationwide shrank to 6,891 in the third quarter after this summer falling below 7,000 for the first time since federal regulators began keeping track in 1934, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

And the number of active bank branches all across America is falling too.  In fact, according to the FDIC the total number of bank branches in the United States fell by 3.2 percent between the end of 2009 and June 30th of this year.

Unfortunately, the closing of bank branches appears to be accelerating.  The number of bank branches in the U.S. declined by 390 during the third quarter of 2013 alone, and it is being projected that the number of bank branches in the U.S. could fall by as much as 40 percent over the next decade.

Can you guess where most of the bank branches are being closed?

If you guessed “poor neighborhoods” you would be correct.

According to Bloomberg, an astounding 93 percent of all bank branch closings since late 2008 have been in neighborhoods where incomes are below the national median household income…

Banks have shut 1,826 branches since late 2008, and 93 percent of closings were in postal codes where the household income is below the national median, according to census and federal banking data compiled by Bloomberg.

It turns out that opening up checking accounts and running ATM machines for poor people just isn’t that profitable.  The executives at these big banks are very open about the fact that they “love affluent customers“, and there is never a shortage of bank branches in wealthy neighborhoods.  But in many poor neighborhoods it is a very different story

About 10 million U.S. households lack bank accounts, according to a study released in September by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. An additional 24 million are “underbanked,” using check-cashing services and other storefront businesses for financial transactions. The Bronx in New York City is the nation’s second most underbanked large county—behind Hidalgo County in Texas—with 48 percent of households either not having an account or relying on alternative financial providers, according to a report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, an advocacy organization for lower-​income Americans.

And if you are waiting for a whole bunch of new banks to start up to serve these poor neighborhoods, you can just forget about it.  Because of a whole host of new rules and regulations that have been put on the backs of small banks over the past several years, it has become nearly impossible to start up a new bank in the United States.  In fact, only one new bank has been started in the United States in the last three years.

So the number of banks is going to continue to decline.  1,400 smaller banks have quietly disappeared from the U.S. banking industry over the past five years alone.  We are witnessing a consolidation of the banking industry in America that is absolutely unprecedented.

Just consider the following statistics.  These numbers come from a recent CNN article

-The assets of the six largest banks in the United States have grown by 37 percent over the past five years.

-The U.S. banking system has 14.4 trillion dollars in total assets.  The six largest banks now account for 67 percent of those assets and all of the other banks account for only 33 percent of those assets.

-Approximately 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared over the past five years.

-JPMorgan Chase is roughly the size of the entire British economy.

-The four largest banks have more than a million employees combined.

-The five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States.

-Bank of America accounts for about a third of all business loans all by itself.

-Wells Fargo accounts for about one quarter of all mortgage loans all by itself.

-About 12 percent of all cash in the United States is held in the vaults of JPMorgan Chase.

As you can see, without those banks we do not have a financial system.

Our entire economy is based on debt, and if those banks were to disappear the flow of credit would dry up almost completely.  Without those banks, we would rapidly enter an economic depression unlike anything that the United States has seen before.

It is kind of like a patient that has such an advanced case of cancer that if you try to kill the cancer you will inevitably also kill the patient.  That is essentially what our relationship with these big banks is like at this point.

Unfortunately, since the last financial crisis the too big to fail banks have become even more reckless.  Right now, four of the too big to fail banks each have total exposure to derivatives that is well in excess of 40 TRILLION dollars.

Keep in mind that U.S. GDP for the entire year of 2012 was just 15.7 trillion dollars and the U.S. national debt is just 17 trillion dollars.

So when you are talking about four banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives you are talking about an amount of money that is almost incomprehensible.

Posted below are the figures for the four banks that I am talking about.  I have written about this in the past, but in this article I have included the very latest updated numbers from the U.S. government.  I think that you will agree that these numbers are absolutely staggering…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,947,794,000,000 (nearly 1.95 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $71,289,673,000,000 (more than 71 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,319,359,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $60,398,289,000,000 (more than 60 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,429,737,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $42,670,269,000,000 (more than 42 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $113,064,000,000 (just a shade over 113 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $43,135,021,000,000 (more than 43 trillion dollars)

Please don’t just gloss over those huge numbers.

Let them sink in for a moment.

Goldman Sachs has total assets worth approximately 113 billion dollars (billion with a little “b”), but they have more than 43 TRILLON dollars of total exposure to derivatives.

That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 381 times greater than their total assets.

Most Americans do not understand that Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world.  The big banks are being incredibly reckless with our money, and if they fail it will bring down the entire economy.

The biggest chunk of these derivatives contracts that Wall Street banks are gambling on is made up of interest rate derivatives.  According to the Bank for International Settlements, the global financial system has a total of 441 TRILLION dollars worth of exposure to interest rate derivatives.

When that Ponzi scheme finally comes crumbling down, there won’t be enough money on the entire planet to fix it.

We had our warning back in 2008.

The too big to fail banks were in the headlines every single day and our politicians promised to fix the problem.

But instead of fixing it, the too big to fail banks are now 37 percent larger and our economy is more dependent on them than ever before.

And in their endless greed for even larger paychecks, they have become insanely reckless with all of our money.

Mark my words – there is going to be a derivatives crisis.

When it happens, we are going to see some of these too big to fail banks actually fail.

At that point, there will be absolutely no hope for the U.S. economy.

We willingly allowed the too big to fail banks to become the core of our economic system, and now we are all going to pay the price.

Too Big To Fail Is Now Bigger Than Ever Before

Lower Manhattan At Night - Photo by Hu TotyaThe too big to fail banks are now much, much larger than they were the last time they caused so much trouble.  The six largest banks in the United States have gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years.  Meanwhile, 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared from the banking industry during that time.  What this means is that the health of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley is more critical to the U.S. economy than ever before.  If they were “too big to fail” back in 2008, then now they must be “too colossal to collapse”.  Without these banks, we do not have an economy.  The six largest banks control 67 percent of all U.S. banking assets, and Bank of America accounted for about a third of all business loans by itself last year.  Our entire economy is based on credit, and these giant banks are at the very core of our system of credit.  If these banks were to collapse, a brutal economic depression would be guaranteed.  Unfortunately, as you will see later in this article, these banks did not learn anything from 2008 and are being exceedingly reckless.  They are counting on the rest of us bailing them out if something goes wrong, but that might not happen next time around.

Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, our politicians have been running around proclaiming that they will not rest until they have fixed “the too big to fail problem”, but instead of fixing it those banks have rapidly gotten even larger.  Just check out the following figures which come from the Los Angeles Times

Just before the financial crisis hit, Wells Fargo & Co. had $609 billion in assets. Now it has $1.4 trillion. Bank of America Corp. had $1.7 trillion in assets. That’s up to $2.1 trillion.

And the assets of JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation’s biggest bank, have ballooned to $2.4 trillion from $1.8 trillion.

We are witnessing a consolidation of the banking industry that is absolutely stunning.  Hundreds of smaller banks have been swallowed up by these behemoths, and millions of Americans are finding that they have to deal with these banking giants whether they like it or not.

Even though all they do is move money around, these banks have become the core of our economic system, and they are growing at an astounding pace.  The following numbers come from a recent CNN article

-The assets of the six largest banks in the United States have grown by 37 percent over the past five years.

-The U.S. banking system has 14.4 trillion dollars in total assets.  The six largest banks now account for 67 percent of those assets and the other 6,934 banks account for only 33 percent of those assets.

-Approximately 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared over the past five years.

-JPMorgan Chase is roughly the size of the entire British economy.

-The four largest banks have more than a million employees combined.

-The five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States.

As I discussed above, without these giant banks there is no economy.  We should have never, ever allowed this to happen, but now that it has happened it is imperative that the American people understand this.  The power of these banks is absolutely overwhelming

One third of all business loans this year were made by Bank of America. Wells Fargo funds nearly a quarter of all mortgage loans. And held in the vaults of JPMorgan Chase is $1.3 trillion, which is 12% of our collective cash, including the payrolls of many thousands of companies, or enough to buy 47,636,496,885 of these NFL branded toaster ovens. Thanks for your business!

A lot of people tend to focus on many of the other threats to our economy, but the number one potential threat that our economy is facing is the potential failure of the too big to fail banks.  As we saw in 2008, when they start to fail things can get really bad really fast.

And as I have written about so many times, the number one threat to the too big to fail banks is the possibility of a derivatives crisis.

Former Goldman Sachs banker and best selling author Nomi Prins recently told Greg Hunter of USAWatchdog.com that the global economy “could implode and have serious ramifications on the financial systems starting with derivatives and working on outward.” You can watch the full video of that interview right here.

And Nomi Prins is exactly right.  Just like we witnessed in 2008, a derivatives panic can spiral out of control very quickly.  Our big banks should have learned a lesson from 2008 and should have greatly scaled back their reckless betting.

Unfortunately, that has not happened.  In fact, according to the OCC’s latest quarterly report on bank trading and derivatives activities, the big banks have become even more reckless since the last time I reported on this.  The following figures reflect the new information contained in the latest OCC report…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,948,150,000,000 (just over 1.9 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $70,287,894,000,000 (more than 70 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,306,258,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $58,471,038,000,000 (more than 58 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,458,091,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,543,003,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $113,743,000,000 (a bit more than 113 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $42,251,600,000,000 (more than 42 trillion dollars)

That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 371 times greater than their total assets.

How in the world can anyone say that Goldman Sachs is not being incredibly reckless?

And remember, the overwhelming majority of these derivatives contracts are interest rate derivatives.

Wild swings in interest rates could set off this time bomb and send our entire financial system plunging into chaos.

After climbing rapidly for a couple of months, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasury bonds has stabilized for the moment.

But if that changes and interest rates start going up dramatically again, that is going to be a huge problem for these too big to fail banks.

And I know that a lot of you don’t have much sympathy for the big banks, but remember, if they go down we go down too.

These banks have been unbelievably reckless, but when they fail, we will all pay the price.

Goldman Sachs Made 400 Million Betting On Food Prices In 2012 While Hundreds Of Millions Starved

Starving Child In Ethiopia - Photo by Cate Turton - Department for International DevelopmentWhy does it seem like wherever there is human suffering, some giant bank is making money off of it?  According to a new report from the World Development Movement, Goldman Sachs made about 400 million dollars betting on food prices last year.  Overall, 2012 was quite a banner year for Goldman Sachs.  As I reported in a previous article, revenues for Goldman increased by about 30 percent in 2012 and the price of Goldman stock has risen by more than 40 percent over the past 12 months.  It is estimated that the average banker at Goldman brought in a pay and bonus package of approximately $396,500 for 2012.  So without a doubt, Goldman Sachs is swimming in money right now.  But what is the price for all of this “success”?  Many claim that the rampant speculation on food prices by the big banks has dramatically increased the global price of food and has caused the suffering of hundreds of millions of poor families around the planet to become much worse.  At this point, global food prices are more than twice as high as they were back in 2003.  Approximately 2 billion people on the planet spend at least half of their incomes on food, and close to a billion people regularly do not have enough food to eat.  Is it moral for Goldman Sachs and other big banks such as Barclays and Morgan Stanley to make hundreds of millions of dollars betting on the price of food if that is going to drive up global food prices and make it harder for poor families all over the world to feed themselves?

This is another reason why the derivatives bubble is so bad for the world economy.  Goldman Sachs and other big banks are treating the global food supply as if it was some kind of a casino game.  This kind of reckless activity was greatly condemned by the World Development Movement report

“Goldman Sachs is the global leader in a trade that is driving food prices up while nearly a billion people are hungry. The bank lobbied for the financial deregulation that made it possible to pour billions into the commodity derivative markets, created the necessary financial instruments, and is now raking in the profits. Speculation is fuelling volatility and food price spikes, hurting people who struggle to afford food across the world.”

So shouldn’t there be a law against this kind of a thing?

Well, in the United States there actually is, but the law has been blocked by the big Wall Street banks and their very highly paid lawyers.  The following is another excerpt from the report

“The US has passed legislation to limit speculation, but the controls have not been implemented due to a legal challenge from Wall Street spearheaded by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, of which Goldman Sachs is a leading member. Similar legislation is on the table at the EU, but the UK government has so far opposed effective controls. Goldman Sachs has lobbied against controls in both the US and the EU.”

Posted below is a chart that shows what this kind of activity has done to commodity prices over the past couple of decades.  You will notice that commodity prices were fairly stable in the 1990s, but since the year 2000 they have been extremely volatile…

Commodity Prices

The reason for all of this volatility was explained in an excellent article by Frederick Kaufman

The money tells the story. Since the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, there has been a 50-fold increase in dollars invested in commodity index funds. To put the phenomenon in real terms: In 2003, the commodities futures market still totaled a sleepy $13 billion. But when the global financial crisis sent investors running scared in early 2008, and as dollars, pounds, and euros evaded investor confidence, commodities — including food — seemed like the last, best place for hedge, pension, and sovereign wealth funds to park their cash. “You had people who had no clue what commodities were all about suddenly buying commodities,” an analyst from the United States Department of Agriculture told me. In the first 55 days of 2008, speculators poured $55 billion into commodity markets, and by July, $318 billion was roiling the markets. Food inflation has remained steady since.

The money flowed, and the bankers were ready with a sparkling new casino of food derivatives. Spearheaded by oil and gas prices (the dominant commodities of the index funds) the new investment products ignited the markets of all the other indexed commodities, which led to a problem familiar to those versed in the history of tulips, dot-coms, and cheap real estate: a food bubble. Hard red spring wheat, which usually trades in the $4 to $6 dollar range per 60-pound bushel, broke all previous records as the futures contract climbed into the teens and kept on going until it topped $25. And so, from 2005 to 2008, the worldwide price of food rose 80 percent –and has kept rising.

Are you angry yet?

You should be.

Poor families all over the planet are suffering so that Wall Street bankers can make bigger profits.

It’s disgusting.

Many big financial institutions just seem to love to make money on the backs of the poor.  I have previously reported on how JP Morgan makes billions of dollars issuing food stamp cards in the United States.  When the number of Americans on food stamps goes up, so does the amount of money that JP Morgan makes.  You can read much more about all of this right here: “Making Money On Poverty: JP Morgan Makes Bigger Profits When The Number Of Americans On Food Stamps Goes Up“.

Sadly, the global food supply is getting tighter with each passing day, and things are looking rather ominous for the years ahead.

According to the United Nations, global food reserves have reached their lowest level in nearly 40 years.  Global food reserves have not been this low since 1974, but the population of the world has greatly increased since then.  If 2013 is another year of drought and bad harvests, things could spiral out of control rather quickly…

World grain reserves are so dangerously low that severe weather in the United States or other food-exporting countries could trigger a major hunger crisis next year, the United Nations has warned.

Failing harvests in the US, Ukraine and other countries this year have eroded reserves to their lowest level since 1974. The US, which has experienced record heatwaves and droughts in 2012, now holds in reserve a historically low 6.5% of the maize that it expects to consume in the next year, says the UN.

“We’ve not been producing as much as we are consuming. That is why stocks are being run down. Supplies are now very tight across the world and reserves are at a very low level, leaving no room for unexpected events next year,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The world has barely been able to feed itself for some time now.  In fact, we have consumed more food than we have produced for 6 of the last 11 years

Evan Fraser, author of Empires of Food and a geography lecturer at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, says: “For six of the last 11 years the world has consumed more food than it has grown. We do not have any buffer and are running down reserves. Our stocks are very low and if we have a dry winter and a poor rice harvest we could see a major food crisis across the board.”

“Even if things do not boil over this year, by next summer we’ll have used up this buffer and consumers in the poorer parts of the world will once again be exposed to the effects of anything that hurts production.”

We desperately need a good growing season next summer, and all eyes are on the United States.  The U.S. exports more food than anyone else does, and last summer the United States experienced the worst drought that it had seen in about 50 years.  That drought left deep scars all over the country.  The following is from a recent Rolling Stone article

In 2012, more than 9 million acres went up in flames in this country. Only dredging and some eleventh-hour rain kept the mighty Mississippi River from being shut down to navigation due to low water levels; continuing drought conditions make “long-term stabilization” of river levels unlikely in the near future. Several of the Great Lakes are soon expected to hit their lowest levels in history. In Nebraska last summer, a 100-mile stretch of the Platte River simply dried up. Drought led the USDA to declare federal disaster areas in 2,245 counties in 39 states last year, and the federal government will likely have to pay tens of billions for crop insurance and lost crops. As ranchers became increasingly desperate to feed their livestock, “hay rustling” and other agricultural crimes rose.

Ranchers were hit particularly hard.  Because they couldn’t feed their herds, many ranchers slaughtered a tremendous number of animals.  As a result, the U.S. cattle herd is now sitting at a 60 year low.

What do you think that is going to do to meat prices over the next few years?

Meanwhile, the drought continues.  According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, this is one of the worst winter droughts the U.S. has ever seen.  At this point, more than 60 percent of the entire nation is currently experiencing drought.

If things don’t turn around dramatically, 2013 could be an absolutely nightmarish year for crops in the United States.  If 2013 does turn out to be another bad year, food prices would soar both in the U.S. and on the global level.  The following is from a recent CNBC article

The severe drought that swept through much of the U.S. last year is continuing into 2013, threatening to cripple economic growth while forcing consumers to pay higher food prices.

“The drought will have a significant impact on prices, especially beef, pork and chicken,” said Ernie Gross, an economic professor at Creighton University and who studies farming issues.

So let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

It looks like higher food prices are on the way, and millions of poor families all over the planet will be hard-pressed to feed their families.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs will be laughing all the way to the bank.

A Global Food Crisis Is Coming - Are You Ready? - Photo by Oxfam East Africa

QE4? The Big Wall Street Banks Are Already Complaining That QE3 Is Not Enough

QE3 has barely even started and some folks on Wall Street are already clamoring for QE4.  In fact, as you will read below, one equity strategist at Morgan Stanley says that he would not be “surprised” if the Federal Reserve announced another new round of money printing by the end of the year.  But this is what tends to happen when a financial system starts becoming addicted to easy money.  There is always a deep hunger for another “hit” of “currency meth”.  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was probably hoping that QE3 would satisfy the wolves on Wall Street for a while.  His promise to recklessly print 40 billion dollars a month and use it to buy mortgage-backed securities is being called “QEInfinity” by detractors.  During QE3, nearly half a trillion dollars a year will be added to the financial system until the Fed decides that it is time to stop.  This is so crazy that even former Federal Reserve officials are speaking out against it.  For example, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker says that QE3 is the “most extreme easing of monetary policy” that he could ever remember.  But the big Wall Street banks are never going to be satisfied.  If QE4 is announced, they will start calling for QE5.  As I noted in a previous article, quantitative easing tends to pump up the prices of financial assets such as stocks and commodities, and that is very good for Wall Street bankers.  So of course they want more quantitative easing.  They always want bigger profits and bigger bonus checks at the end of the year.

But at this point the Federal Reserve has already “jumped the shark”.  If you don’t know what “jumping the shark” means, you can find a definition on Wikipedia right here.  Whatever shreds of credibility the Fed had left are being washed away by a flood of newly printed money.

Those running the Fed have essentially used up all of their bullets and the next great financial crisis has not even fully erupted yet.

So what is the Fed going to do if the stock market crashes and the credit market freezes up like we saw back in 2008?

How much more extreme can the Fed go?

One can just picture “Helicopter Ben” strapping on a pair of water skis and making the following promise….

“We are going to print so much money that we’ll make Zimbabwe and the Weimar Republic look like wimps!”

Sadly, the truth is that money printing is not a “quick fix” and it never has been.  Just look at Japan.  The Bank of Japan is on round 8 of their quantitative easing strategy, and yet things in Japan continue to get even worse.

But that is not going to stop the folks on Wall Street from calling for even more quantitative easing.

For example, the top U.S. equity strategist for Morgan Stanley, Adam Parker, made headlines all over the world this week by writing the following….

“QE3 will likely be insufficient to significantly boost equity markets and we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Fed dramatically augment this program (i.e., QE4) before year-end, particularly if economic and corporate news continue to deteriorate as they have over the past few weeks.”

Did you get what he is saying there?

He says that QE3 is not going to be enough to boost equity markets (the stock market) so more money printing will be necessary.

But wasn’t QE3 supposed to be about creating jobs and helping the middle class?

I can almost hear many of you laughing out loud already.

As I have written about before, QE3 is unlikely to change the employment picture in any significant way, but what it will do is create more inflation which will squeeze the poor, the middle class and the elderly.

The truth is that quantitative easing has always been about bailing out the banks, and the hope is that this will trickle down to the folks on Main Street as well, but that never seems to happen.

Wall Street is not calling for even more quantitative easing because it would be good for you and I.  Rather, Wall Street is calling for even more quantitative easing because it would be good for them.

A CNBC article entitled “Fed May Need to Boost QE ‘Dramatically’ This Year: Pros” discussed Wall Street’s desire for even more money printing….

The Federal Reserve’s latest easing move has been nicknamed everything from “QE3″ to “QE Infinity” to “QEternal,” but some on Wall Street question whether the unprecedented move will be QEnough.

And of course everyone pretty much understands that QE3 is definitely not going to fix our economic problems.  Even most of those on Wall Street will admit as much.  In the CNBC article mentioned above, a couple of economists named Paul Ashworth and Paul Dales at Capital Economics were quoted as saying the following….

“The Fed can commit to deliver whatever economic outcome it likes, but the problem is that  the crisis in the euro-zone and/or a stand-off in negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff in the U.S. may well reveal it to be like the proverbial Emperor with no clothes”

An emperor with no clothes?

I think the analogy fits.

The Federal Reserve is going to keep printing and printing and printing and things are not going to get any better.

At this point, economists at Goldman Sachs are already projecting that QE3 will likely stretch into 2015….

The Federal Reserve’s QE3 bond buying program announced earlier this month could last until the middle of 2015 and eventually reach $2 trillion, according to an estimate from economists at Goldman Sachs.

The Goldman economists also wrote in a report that they believe the Fed will not raise the federal funds rate until 2016. This rate, which is used as a benchmark for a wide variety of consumer and business loans, has been near 0% since December 2008. The Fed said in its last statement that it expected rates would remain low until mid-2015.

So why is Wall Street whining and complaining so loudly right now?

Well, even with all of the bailouts and even with all of the help from the first two rounds of quantitative easing, things are still tough for them.

For example, Bank of America recently announced that they will be laying off 16,000 workers.

In addition, there are rumors that 100 highly paid partners at Goldman Sachs are going to be getting the axe.  It is said that Goldman will save 2 billion dollars with such a move.

We haven’t even reached the next great financial crisis and the pink slips are already flying on Wall Street.  Meredith Whitney says that she has never seen anything quite like this….

“The industry is as bad as I’ve seen it. So it’s certainly not a great time to be on Wall Street.”

But of course Wall Street is not going to get much sympathy from the rest of America.  The truth is that things have been far rougher for most of the rest of us than things have been for them.

When the last crisis hit, they got trillions of dollars in bailout money and we got nothing.

So most people are not really in a mood to shed any tears for Wall Street.

But of course the Federal Reserve is definitely hoping to help their friends on Wall Street out by printing lots of money.

You never know, by the time this is all over we may see QE4, QE5, QE Reloaded, QE With A Vengeance and QE The Return Of The Bernanke.

Meanwhile, Europe is gearing up to print money like crazy too.

A couple months ago, European Central Bank President  Mario Draghi made the following pledge….

“Within our mandate, the European Central Bank is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro, and believe me, it will be enough.”

And of course the Bank of Japan has joined the money printing party too.  The following is from a recent article by David Kotok….

The recently announced additional program by the BOJ includes a fifty-percent allocation to the purchase of ten-year Japanese government bonds. The other fifty percent will buy shorter-term government securities. Thus, the BOJ is applying half of its additional QE stimulus to extracting long duration from the government bond market, denominated in Japanese yen.

All of the central banks seem to be getting on the QE bandwagon.

But will this fix anything?

Unfortunately it will not, at least according to Paul Volcker….

“Another round of QE is understandable – but it will fail to fix the problem. There is so much liquidity in the market that adding more is not going to change the economy.”

Sadly, most Americans have a ton of faith in the people running our system, but the truth is that they really do not know what they are doing.  Just check out what Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said the other day….

“The truth, however, is that nobody on the committee, nor on our staffs at the Board of Governors and the 12 Banks, really knows what is holding back the economy. Nobody really knows what will work to get the economy back on course. And nobody – in fact, no central bank anywhere on the planet – has the experience of successfully navigating a return home from the place in which we now find ourselves. No central bank – not, at least, the Federal Reserve – has ever been on this cruise before.”

Can you imagine the head coach of a football team coming in at halftime and telling his players the following….

“Nobody on the coaching stuff really has any idea what will work.”

That sure would not inspire a lot of confidence, would it?

Perhaps the Fed should be open to some input from the rest of us.

Actually, back on September 14th the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco posted a poll on Facebook that asked the following question….

What effect do you think QE3 will have on the U.S. economy?

The following are the 5 answers that got the most votes….

-“Long term, disastrous”

-“Negative”

-“Thanks for $5 gas”

-“I can’t believe you think this will work!”

-“Fire Bernanke”

So what do you think about the quantitative easing that the Federal Reserve is doing?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

The Unbelievably Rampant Corruption On Wall Street

In order for a financial system to be able to function properly, it is absolutely essential that the general population has faith in it.  After all, who is going to want to invest in the stock market or entrust their money to big financial institutions if there is not at least the perception of honesty and fairness in the financial marketplace?  For decades, the American people did have faith in Wall Street.  But now that faith is being shattered by a string of recent revelations.  It seems as though the rampant corruption on Wall Street is seeping up almost everywhere now.  In fact, some of the things that have come out recently have been absolutely jaw-dropping.  The truth is that the corruption on Wall Street is much deeper and much more systemic than most of us ever dared to imagine.  As the general public digests these recent scandals, it is going to result in a tremendous loss of faith in the U.S. financial system.  Once faith in a financial system is lost, it can take years or even decades to get back.  So how is the U.S. financial system supposed to work properly when large numbers of people simply do not believe in it anymore?

Just consider some of the recent revelations of Wall Street corruption that have come out recently….

*Bloomberg is reporting that a massive network of big banks and financial institutions have been involved in blatant bid-rigging fraud that cost taxpayers across the U.S. billions of dollars.  The U.S. Justice Department is charging that financial advisers to municipalities colluded with Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia and 11 other banks in a conspiracy to rig bids on municipal financial instruments.  Apparently what was going on was that it was decided in advance who would win the auctions of guaranteed investment contracts, which public entities purchase with the proceeds from municipal bond sales, and then other intentionally losing bids were submitted in order to make the process look competitive.  The U.S. Justice Department claims that this fraud has been industry-wide and has been going on for years.  In fact, at least four financial professionals have already pleaded guilty in this case.

*An industry insider has come forward with “smoking gun” evidence that some of the biggest banks have been openly and blatantly manipulating the price of gold and silver.  For a time it looked like the federal government was just going to ignore all of this fraud, but after substantial public uproar some action is indeed being taken.  In fact, it has been reported that federal agents have launched parallel criminal and civil probes of JPMorgan Chase and its trading activity in the precious metals markets.

*Goldman Sachs is getting most of the press about fraud in the mortgage-backed securities market these days.  Of course Goldman is strenuously denying that it “bet against its clients” when it changed its position in the housing market in 2007.  But we all know the truth at this point.  The truth is that Goldman Sachs clearly bet against its clients and was involved in a whole lot of things that were even worse than that.  Many did not think the U.S. government would dare go after Goldman, but that is what we are starting to see.  U.S. federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into whether Goldman Sachs or its employees committed securities fraud in connection with its trading of mortgage-backed securities, and it will be very interesting to see if anything comes of that investigation.

*But not everyone is being held accountable for their actions.  The guy who helped bring down AIG is going to get off scott-free and is going to be able to keep the millions in profits that he made in the process.

*Entire U.S. cities have been victims of this rampant Wall Street fraud.  In fact, it is now being alleged that the biggest banks on Wall Street are ripping off some of the largest American cities with the same kind of predatory deals that brought down the financial system in Greece.

*The really sad thing is that fraud is very, very lucrative.  Executives at many of the big banks that received large amounts of money during the Wall Street bailouts are being lavished with record bonuses as millions of other average Americans continue to suffer economically.  Even the CEOs of bailed-out regional banks are getting big raises.  It must be really nice to be them.

So does all of this make you more likely or less likely to invest in the stock market?

Do you think that the American people can see all of this and still believe that the financial system is “fair” and “honest”?

The truth is that Wall Street is full of rip-off artists and fraudsters who don’t even try to hide their greed anymore.

It is as if a thousand junior Gordon Gekkos have been unleashed and they are all trying to be masters of the universe at any cost.

But what they are doing is ripping the heart out of the U.S. financial system.

If people lose faith in the system the system will ultimately fail.

A financial system that allows open fraud and manipulation is operating on borrowed time.

So will the rampant corruption on Wall Street now be cleaned up?

Only time will tell.

But one thing is for certain.

The American people will be watching.

SILVER MART

 

Megabanks: The Banking Oligarchy That Controls Assets Equivalent To 60 Percent Of America’s GNP

Today financial power is being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals.  In fact, the six biggest banks in the United States now possess assets equivalent to 60 percent of America’s gross national product.  Back in the 1990s that figure was less than 20 percent.  These six banks – Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo – literally dictate what goes on in the U.S. banking industry.  These entities are the poster children for “too big to fail”, and they donate massive amounts of cash to the campaigns of both Republicans and Democrats to ensure that they will continue to receive favorable treatment.  The vast majority of Americans have had a banking account, a credit card and/or a mortgage with one of these institutions at some point.  If they acted in concert, these six banks could literally bring down the U.S. economy overnight if they wanted to.  Together with the Federal Reserve, these six banks represent the real financial power in America.  They are the 800 pound gorilla in the room that influences nearly every major financial deal that gets done and virtually every major political decision that gets made.  As the last couple of years have demonstrated, top politicians from both parties (John McCain and Barack Obama for example) will instantly jump into action and start advocating that the U.S. government spend billions upon billions of dollars when the interests of these behemoths are threatened.  The frightening thing is that the power of these megabanks is growing at a frightening pace.  As dozens upon dozens of smaller U.S. banks are “allowed to fail”, they either go out of existence or the Feds actually encourage these smaller banks to sell themselves to one of the big sharks.  In either event, the banking power in the United States becomes further consolidated in the hands of the megabanks.

Bill Moyers recently interviewed Simon Johnson and James Kwak, the authors of a new book entitled 13 Bankers: The Wall St. Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown.  During that interview Kwak described to Moyers just how explosive the growth of the power of these megabanks has been….

Bill Moyers: And you write that they control 60 percent of our gross national product?

James Kwak: They have assets equivalent to 60 percent of our gross national product. And to put this in perspective, in the mid-1990s, these six banks or their predecessors, since there have been a lot of mergers, had less than 20 percent. Their assets were less than 20 percent of the gross national product.

Does it alarm you that the banking elite have accumulated such a large amount of financial power?

It should.  These institutions have the power to wreck entire economies.  Just consider what happened in Greece lately.  Now, it is being alleged that the megabanks are ripping off American cities with the same kinds of predatory deals that brought down the financial system in Greece. 

And that is what these megabanks are.

They are predators.

In fact, a very revealing article in Rolling Stone described Goldman Sachs this way….

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.

Unfortunately, they may have actually been understating things a bit.

These megabanks have rigged the game so that the wealth of the nation is slowly transferred from us to themselves and to the international financial interests that control them.

They can make money if the markets are going up, and they can make money if the markets are going down.

For example, in a newly released email from the height of the housing crash, the CEO of Goldman Sachs bragged that his firm “made more than we lost” by betting against the housing market.

Thankfully the SEC is starting to look into the fraud that Goldman Sachs committed during this time period, but the truth is that Goldman is not likely to receive any more than a slap on the wrist for what it has done.

They are way too big, way too powerful and have too many friends in high places for them to get into any real trouble.

For example, it has come out that Barack Obama does not intend to return any of the campaign contributions that he received from Goldman Sachs.  And surely they will be glad to continue to pour big money into his political coffers.

So where does that leave the rest of us?

Well, the rest of us can expect higher taxes and a lower standard of living according to the IMF.  The IMF (which has deep connections to these megabanks) says that the party is “over” for nations that have been enjoying the good life.  In a recent article, the Washington Post summarized the message that the IMF is trying to communicate through their recent policy papers….

To keep the global economy on track, people in the United States and the rest of the developed world need to work longer before retiring, pay higher taxes and expect less from government. And the cheap imports lining the shelves of mega-chains such as Wal-Mart and Target? They need to be more expensive.

So are you ready to work longer, pay higher taxes, expect less from government and have a lower standard of living?

That is what the IMF says we are all going to be facing in the years ahead.

We are all going to financially suffer as the megabanks continue to thrive and consolidate power.

Isn’t that wonderful?

You say you don’t like that so much?

Well, good luck taking on the 800 pound gorilla.

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