Farewell Bernanke – Thanks For Inflating The Biggest Bond Bubble The World Has Ever Seen

Barack Obama And Ben BernankeFederal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is on the way out the door, but the consequences of the bond bubble that he has helped to create will stay with us for a very, very long time.  During Bernanke’s tenure, interest rates on U.S. Treasuries have fallen to record lows.  This has enabled the U.S. government to pile up an extraordinary amount of debt.  During his tenure we have also seen mortgage rates fall to record lows.  All of this has helped to spur economic activity in the short-term, but what happens when interest rates start going back to normal?  If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rises to just 6 percent, the U.S. government will suddenly be paying out a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.  And remember, there have been times in the past when the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt has been much higher than that.  In addition, when the U.S. government starts having to pay more to borrow money so will everyone else.  What will that do to home sales and car sales?  And of course we all remember what happened to adjustable rate mortgages when interest rates started to rise just prior to the last recession.  We have gotten ourselves into a position where the U.S. economy simply cannot afford for interest rates to go up.  We have become addicted to the cheap money made available by a grossly distorted financial system, and we have Ben Bernanke to thank for that.  The Federal Reserve is at the very heart of the economic problems that we are facing in America, and this time is certainly no exception.

This week Barack Obama publicly praised Ben Bernanke and stated that Bernanke has “already stayed a lot longer than he wanted” as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  Bernanke’s term ends on January 31st, but many observers believe that he could leave even sooner than that.  Bernanke appears to be tired of the job and eager to move on.

So who would replace him?  Well, the mainstream media is making it sound like the appointment of Janet Yellen is already a forgone conclusion.  She would be the first woman ever to chair the Federal Reserve, and her philosophy is that a little bit of inflation is good for an economy.  It seems likely that she would continue to take us down the path that Bernanke has taken us.

But is it a fundamentally sound path?  Keeping interest rates pressed to the floor and wildly printing money may be producing some positive results in the short-term, but the crazy bubble that this is creating will burst at some point.  In fact, the director of financial stability for the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, recently admitted that the central bankers have “intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history” and he warned about what might happen once it ends…

“If I were to single out what for me would be biggest risk to global financial stability right now it would be a disorderly reversion in the yields of government bonds globally.” he said. There had been “shades of that” in recent weeks as government bond yields have edged higher amid talk that central banks, particularly the US Federal Reserve, will start to reduce its stimulus.

“Let’s be clear. We’ve intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history,” Haldane said. “We need to be vigilant to the consequences of that bubble deflating more quickly than [we] might otherwise have wanted.”

Posted below is a chart that demonstrates how interest rates on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds have fallen over the last several decades.  This has helped to fuel the false prosperity that we have been enjoying, but there is no way that the U.S. government should have been able to borrow money so cheaply.  This bubble that we are living in now is setting the stage for a very, very painful adjustment…

Interest Rate On 10 Year U.S. Treasuries

So what will that “adjustment” look like?

The following analysis is from a recent article by Wolf Richter

Ten-year Treasury notes have been kicked down from their historic pedestal last July when some poor souls, blinded by the Fed’s halo of omnipotence and benevolence, bought them at a minuscule yield of 1.3%. For them, it’s been an ice-cold shower ever since. As Treasuries dropped, yields meandered upward in fits and starts. After a five-week jump from 1.88% in early May, they hit 2.29% on Tuesday last week – they’ve retreated to 2.19% since then. Now investors are wondering out loud what would happen if ten-year Treasury yields were to return to more normal levels of 4% or even 5%, dragging other long-term interest rates with them. They know what would happen: carnage!

And according to Richter, there are already signs that the bond bubble is beginning to burst…

Wholesale dumping of Treasuries by exasperated foreigners has already commenced. Private foreigners dumped $30.8 billion in Treasuries in April, an all-time record. Official holders got rid of $23.7 billion in long-term Treasury debt, the highest since November 2008, and $30.1 billion in short-term debt. Sell, sell, sell!

Bond fund redemptions spoke of fear and loathing: in the week ended June 12, investors yanked $14.5 billion out of Treasury bond funds, the second highest ever, beating the prior second-highest-ever outflow of $12.5 billion of the week before. They were inferior only to the October 2008 massacre as chaos descended upon financial markets. $27 billion in two weeks!

In lockstep, average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates jumped from 3.59% in early May to 4.15% last week. The mortgage refinancing bubble, by which banks have creamed off billions in fees, is imploding – the index has plunged 36% since early May.

If interest rates start to climb significantly, that will have a dramatic affect on economic activity in the United States.

And we have seen this pattern before.

As Robert Wenzel noted in a recent article on the Economic Policy Journal, we saw interest rates rise suddenly just prior to the October 1987 stock market crash, and we also saw them rise substantially prior to the financial crisis of 2008…

As Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker left the Fed chairmanship in August 1987, the interest rate on the 10 year note climbed from 8.2% to 9.2% between June 1987 and September 1987. This was followed, of course by the October 1987 stock market crash.

As Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan left the Fed chairmanship at the end of January 2006, the interest rate on the 10 year note climbed from 4.35% to 4.65%. It then climbed above 5%.

So keep a close eye on interest rates in the months ahead.  If they start to rise significantly, that will be a red flag.

And it makes perfect sense why Bernanke is looking to hand over the reins of the Fed at this point.  He can probably sense the carnage that is coming and he wants to get out of Dodge while he still can.

The Student Loan Delinquency Rate In The United States Has Hit A Brand New Record High

College Graduation - Photo by Mando vzl37 million Americans currently have outstanding student loans, and the delinquency rate on those student loans has now reached a level never seen before.  According to a new report that was just released by the U.S. Department of Education, 11 percent of all student loans are at least 90 days delinquent.  That is a brand new record high, and it is almost double the rate of a decade ago.  Total student loan debt exceeds a trillion dollars, and it is now the second largest category of consumer debt after home mortgages.  The student loan debt bubble has been growing particularly rapidly in recent years.  According to the Federal Reserve, the total amount of student loan debt has risen by 275 percent since 2003.  That is a staggering figure.  Millions upon millions of young college graduates are entering the “real world” only to discover that they are already financially crippled for decades to come by oppressive student loan debt burdens.  Large numbers of young people are even putting off buying homes or getting married simply because of student loan debt.

So why is this happening?  Well, a big part of the problem is that the cost of college tuition has gotten wildly out of control.  Since 1978, the cost of college tuition has risen even more rapidly then the cost of medical care has.  Tuition costs at public universities have risen by 27 percent over the past five years, and there appears to be no end in sight.

We keep encouraging our young people to take out all of the loans that are necessary to pay for college, because a college education is supposedly the “key” to their futures.

But is that really the case?

Sadly, the reality of the matter is that millions of young Americans are graduating from college only to discover that the jobs that they were promised simply do not exist.

In fact, at this point about half of all college graduates are working jobs that do not even require a college degree.

This is leading to mass disillusionment with the system.  One survey found that 70% of all college graduates wish that they had spent more time preparing for the “real world” while they were still in college.

And because so many of them cannot get decent jobs, more college graduates then ever are finding that they cannot pay back the huge student loans that they were encouraged to sign up for.  The following is from a recent Bloomberg article.

Eleven percent of student loans were seriously delinquent — at least 90 days past due — in the third quarter of 2012, compared with 6 percent in the first quarter of 2003, according to the report by the U.S. Education Department.  Almost 30 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds aren’t employed or in school, the study found.

Everyone agrees that we are now dealing with an unprecedented student loan debt bubble, but none of our leaders seem to have any solutions.

The two charts posted below come from a recent Zero Hedge article, and they are very illuminating.  The first chart shows how the amount of student loan debt owned by the federal government has absolutely exploded in recent years, and the second chart shows how the percentage of student loan debt that is at least 90 days delinquent has risen to a brand new record high…

Delinquent Student Loans - Zero Hedge Chart

How is the economy ever going to recover if an increasingly large percentage of our young college graduates are financially crippled by student loan debt?

And things are about to get even worse.

If Congress takes no action, the interest rate on federal student loans is going to double to 6.8 percent on July 1st.  That rate increase would affect more than 7 million students.

And debt burdens just continue to increase in size.  In fact, according to one recent study, “70 per cent of the class of 2013 is graduating with college-related debt – averaging $35,200 – including federal, state and private loans, as well as debt owed to family and accumulated through credit cards.”

This is one reason why there is so much poverty among young adults in America today.  As I mentioned in a previous article, families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.  For much more on the student loan debt bubble and how it is crippling an entire generation of Americans, please see my recent article entitled “29 Shocking Facts That Prove That College Education In America Is A Giant Money Making Scam“.

And of course delinquency rates remain very high on other forms of debt as well.  For example, delinquency rates on home mortgages have typically been around 2 to 3 percent historically.  But as you can see from the chart below, the delinquency rate on single-family residential mortgages is currently close to 10 percent…

Delinquency Rate On Single-Family Residential Mortgages

So are we really having an “economic recovery”?

Of course not.

Things are good for those that have lots of money in the stock market (for now), but for the vast majority of Americans things continue to get worse.

And we continue to forget the lessons that we should have learned from the financial crisis of 2008.  Right now, we are seeing a resurgence of cash out financing.  But this time, people are leveraging their inflated stock portfolios instead of their home equity.  The following is from a  CNN report

The recent run-up in the market, financial advisers say, has led to a resurgence of the type of loan not seen since the end of the housing boom — cash out financing. But this time, though, people aren’t tapping their inflated house for money. These days stock portfolios appear to be the well of choice.

Financial planners say in recent months clients have taken out so-called margin loans to buy real estate, fund small business acquisitions, or to provide gap financing before a traditional loan could be secured from a bank.

“No one wants to be out of the market for 90 days,” says Mark Brown, a financial planner for Brown Tedstron in Denver. “People just don’t want to sell right now.”

We are a nation that is absolutely addicted to debt.  We know that it is wrong, but we just can’t help ourselves.

We are like the 900 pound man that recently died.  He knew that he was eating himself to death, but he just couldn’t stop.

In the end, we are going to pay a great price for our gluttony.  Everyone in the world can see that we are killing the greatest economy that ever existed, but we simply do not have the self-discipline to do anything about it.

Don’t Buy A House In 2011 Before You Read These 20 Wacky Statistics About The U.S. Real Estate Crisis

Unless you have been asleep or hiding under a rock for the past five years, you already know that we are experiencing the worst real estate crisis that the U.S. has ever seen.  Home prices in the United States have fallen 33 percent from the peak of the housing bubble, which is more than they fell during the Great Depression.  Those that decided to buy a house in 2005 or 2006 are really hurting right now.  Just think about it.  Could you imagine paying off a $400,000 mortgage on a home that is now only worth $250,000?  Millions of Americans are now living through that kind of financial hell.  Sadly, most analysts expect U.S. home prices to go down even further.  Despite the “best efforts” of those running our economy, unemployment is still rampant.  The number of middle class jobs continues to decline year after year, but it takes at least a middle class income to buy a decent home.  In addition, financial institutions have really tightened up lending standards and have made it much more difficult to get home loans.  Back during the wild days of the housing bubble, the family cat could get a zero-down mortgage, but today the pendulum has swung very far in the other direction and now it is really, really tough to get a home loan.  Meanwhile, the number of foreclosures and distressed properties continues to soar.  So with a ton of homes on the market and not a lot of buyers the power is firmly in the hands of those looking to buy a house.

So will home prices continue to go down?  Possibly.  But they won’t go down forever.  At some point the inflation that is already affecting many other segments of the economy will affect home prices as well.  That doesn’t mean that it will be middle class American families that will be buying up all the homes.  An increasing percentage of homes are being purchased by investors or by foreigners.  There are a lot of really beautiful homes in the United States, and wealthy people from all over the globe love to buy a house in America.

But because of the factors mentioned above, it is quite possible that U.S. home prices could go down another 10 or 20 percent, especially if the economy gets worse.

So what is the right time to buy a house?

Nobody really knows for sure.

Mortgage rates are near record lows right now and there are some great deals to be had in many areas of the country.  But that does not mean that you won’t be able to get the same home for even less 6 months or a year from now.

In any event, this truly has been a really trying time for the U.S. housing market.  Hordes of builders, construction workers, contractors, real estate agents and mortgage professionals have been put out of work by this downturn.  The housing industry is one of the core pillars of the economy, and so a recovery in home sales is desperately needed.

The following are 20 really wacky statistics about the U.S. real estate crisis….

#1 According to Zillow, 28.4 percent of all single-family homes with a mortgage in the United States are now underwater.

#2 Zillow has also announced that the average price of a home in the U.S. is about 8 percent lower than it was a year ago and that it continues to fall about 1 percent a month.

#3 U.S. home prices have now fallen a whopping 33% from where they were at during the peak of the housing bubble.

#4 During the first quarter of 2011, home values declined at the fastest rate since late 2008.

#5 According to Zillow, more than 55 percent of all single-family homes with a mortgage in Atlanta have negative equity and more than 68 percent of all single-family homes with a mortgage in Phoenix have negative equity.

#6 U.S. home values have fallen an astounding 6.3 trillion dollars since the housing crisis first began.

#7 In February, U.S. housing starts experienced their largest decline in 27 years.

#8 New home sales in the United States are now down 80% from the peak in July 2005.

#9 Historically, the percentage of residential mortgages in foreclosure in the United States has tended to hover between 1 and 1.5 percent.  Today, it is up around 4.5 percent.

#10 According to RealtyTrac, foreclosure filings in the United States are projected to increase by another 20 percent in 2011.

#11 It is estimated that 25% of all mortgages in Miami-Dade County are “in serious distress and headed for either foreclosure or short sale“.

#12 Two years ago, the average U.S. homeowner that was being foreclosed upon had not made a mortgage payment in 11 months.  Today, the average U.S. homeowner that is being foreclosed upon has not made a mortgage payment in 17 months.

#13 Sales of foreclosed homes now represent an all-time record 23.7% of the market.

#14 4.5 million home loans are now either in some stage of foreclosure or are at least 90 days delinquent.

#15 According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, at least 8 million Americans are currently at least one month behind on their mortgage payments.

#16 In September 2008, 33 percent of Americans knew someone who had been foreclosed upon or who was facing the threat of foreclosure.  Today that number has risen to 48 percent.

#17 During the first quarter of 2011, less new homes were sold in the U.S. than in any three month period ever recorded.

#18 According to a recent census report, 13% of all homes in the United States are currently sitting empty.

#19 In 1996, 89 percent of Americans believed that it was better to own a home than to rent one.  Today that number has fallen to 63 percent.

#20 According to Zillow, the United States has been in a “housing recession” for 57 straight months without an end in sight.

So should we be confident that the folks in charge are doing everything that they can to turn all of this around?

Sadly, the truth is that our “authorities” really do not know what they are doing.  The following is what Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke had to say about the housing market back in 2006….

“Housing markets are cooling a bit. Our expectation is that the decline in activity or the slowing in activity will be moderate, that house prices will probably continue to rise.”

Since that time U.S. housing prices have experienced their biggest decline ever.

At some point widespread inflation is going to reverse the trend we are experiencing right now, but that doesn’t mean that most American families will be able to afford to buy homes when that happens.

As I have written about previously, the middle class in America is shrinking.  The number of Americans on food stamps has increased by 18 million over the past four years and today 47 million Americans (a new all-time record) are living in poverty.

Millions of our jobs are being shipped overseas, the cost of living keeps going up and an increasing percentage of American families are losing faith in the economy.

More Americans than ever are talking about “the coming economic collapse” as if it is a foregone conclusion.  Our federal government is swamped with debt, our state and local governments are swamped with debt and our economic infrastructure is being ripped to shreds by globalization.

So sadly, no, there are not a whole lot of reasons to be optimistic at this point about a major economic turnaround.

The U.S. economy is going down the toilet and the coming collapse is going to be incredibly painful for all of us.

Hopefully when that collapse comes you will have somewhere warm and safe to call home.  If not, hopefully someone will have compassion on you.  In any event, we all need to buckle up because it is going to be a wild ride.

Wal-Mart Says “Serious” Inflation Is Coming

Thank you Ben Bernanke for all the money printing.  Thanks to a massive injection of cash into the financial system by the Federal Reserve and other central banks, the price of almost every major commodity has skyrocketed over the past six months.  Now those price increases are starting to filter down to the retail level.  During a recent meeting with USA TODAY’s editorial board, Wal-Mart CEO Bill Simon said that rising inflation in the United States is “going to be serious” and that Wal-Mart is “seeing cost increases starting to come through at a pretty rapid rate.”  For many years Wal-Mart has been famous for their “low prices”, so for the head of Wal-Mart to publicly warn that much higher prices are coming is more than a little alarming.  There are millions of American families that are already drowning in debt, that can barely pay their mortgages and that are struggling to put food on the table for their families.  So what is going to happen to the U.S. economy when prices start rising substantially at places such as Wal-Mart?

But Wal-Mart is not the only major corporation that says that inflation is coming.  Hershey has just announced price increases of about 10 percent on their entire line of products.

So if you like chocolate you better start stocking up now.

Cocoa production is being seriously threatened by the political unrest in Africa right now.  The recent chaos in the Ivory Coast is certainly not good news for Hershey, but the truth is that all of the long-term trends indicate that prices for commodities such as cocoa, coffee and sugar are going to move up anyway.

In fact, Aaron Smith, the managing director of Superfund Financial, believes that coffee, sugar and cocoa will all be five to ten times more expensive by 2014 than they are today.

So if you are addicted to coffee or to sugar you might want to start making your plans accordingly.

But the truth is that inflation is not limited to just a few commodities.  Virtually every major agricultural commodity has soared in price over the past 6 months to a year.

So what is causing all of this?

Well, there are several factors which are major contributors.

First of all, overall global demand continues to increase.  The population of the world continues to grow, and as the economies of nations such as China and India develop, millions more people want to enjoy luxury items such as chocolate and coffee just like Americans do.

Secondly, all over the world central banks have been recklessly printing money in an attempt to stimulate their economies, but this is also going to end up causing tremendous inflation.

So how does that work?

Well, it is actually very simple.

For example, in the United States when there are more dollars chasing the same number of goods and services, what is going to happen?

Prices are going to rise of course.

And we are seeing this happen all over the world right now.

Thirdly, as the price of oil continues to rise, it is going to increase the cost of everything else.  The era of massive amounts of cheap food being transported around the world using massive quantities of cheap oil is rapidly coming to an end.

The following chart if from the Federal Reserve.  It shows that the price of oil is rapidly moving back to the level it was at prior to the financial crisis of 2008.  In fact, this chart is slightly out of date.  At last check, the price of oil was over $107 a barrel.  So what is it going to mean for our economy if we soon surpass the record that was set back in 2008?….

Fourthly, global instability is also going to cause prices to continue to rise.  Over the past year we have had really bizarre weather all over the globe, we have seen revolutions erupt all over Africa and the Middle East and the third largest economy in the world (Japan) just experienced the worst disaster that they have been through since World War 2 ended.

When things are unstable, economies don’t work as efficiently.  That means that less goods and services are produced.

But when there are less goods and services being chased by an increasing amount of money that tends to push prices up.

The truth is that inflation is here, and if the CEO of Wal-Mart is right, it is not going to go away any time soon.

In fact, many believe that the world is on the verge of another major economic crisis.

If you stop and think about it, every major region of the world is dealing with very serious problems right now.

Right now, the European debt crisis is worse than it ever has been before.  Did you notice that Standard & Poor’s just downgraded Portugal’s debt for the second time in a week?  Now Portuguese debt is rated BBB-, which is only one level above junk status.

That is a very alarming sign.

Asia is dealing with the Japanese crisis, nearly all of the countries in the Middle East are dealing with protests or full-blown revolutions, Africa is dealing with the war in Libya and quite a few revolutions of their own, and the U.S. is still deeply struggling with a whole host of economic problems.

Most Americans don’t realize just how precarious things are at the moment for the global economy.  The financial crash of 2008 did a lot of lasting damage, and the next wave of the financial crisis could potentially be even worse.  Unfortunately, the global financial system is more vulnerable than ever right now.

So what are the Federal Reserve and other central banks going to do the next time a major financial crisis happens?

They are going to print even larger quantities of money and they are going to give even larger bailouts to their friends of course.

The dollars that you have today are never going to be more valuable than they are right now.  Don’t wait too long to use them.  If you have a huge pile of dollars sitting in the bank your wealth is slowly but surely rotting away.

Very hard economic times are coming.  The inflation that the CEO of Wal-Mart is warning about is only the beginning.  Eventually we are going to see inflation in this country that is going to be absolutely mind blowing.

But don’t wait until the storm hits to start preparing.  We all have time now to prepare, so let us be wise and make the most of it.

Even Donald Trump Is Warning That An Economic Collapse Is Coming

In a shocking new interview, Donald Trump has gone farther than he ever has before in discussing a potential economic collapse in America.  Using phrases such as “you’re going to pay $25 for a loaf of bread pretty soon” and “we could end up being another Egypt”, Trump explained to Newsmax that he is incredibly concerned about the direction our economy is headed.  Whatever you may think of Donald Trump on a personal level, it is undeniable that he has been extremely successful in business.  As one of the most prominent businessmen in America, he is absolutely horrified about what is happening to this nation.  In fact, he is so disturbed about the direction that this country is heading that he is seriously considering running for president in 2012.  But whether he decides to run in 2012 or not, what Trump is now saying about the U.S. economy should be a huge wake up call for all of us.

Trump says that the U.S. government is broke, that all of our jobs are being shipped overseas, that other nations are heavily taking advantage of us and that the value of the U.S. dollar is being destroyed.  The following interview with Trump was originally posted on Newsmax and it is really worth watching….

Now, you may or may not think much of Donald Trump as a politician, but when a businessman of his caliber starts using apocalyptic language to describe where the U.S. economy is headed perhaps we should all pay attention.

The following are 12 key quotes that were pulled out of Trump’s new interview along with some facts and statistics that show that what Trump is saying is really happening.

#1 “If oil prices are allowed to inflate and keep inflating, if the dollar keeps going down in value, I think there’s a very distinct possibility that things could get worse.”

Donald Trump is exactly right – we are headed for big trouble if we continue to allow the Federal Reserve to pump hundreds of billions of new dollars into the system.  As I have written about previously, all of this new money will give us the illusion of short-term economic growth and it will pump up the stock market, but in the end all of the inflation the new money is gong to cause is going to be very painful.  Just look at how rapidly M1 has been skyrocketing over the last couple of years.  Is there any way that we are going to be able to avoid paying a very serious price for all of this reckless money printing?….

Already all of this money printing has had a very serious affect on world financial markets.  The price of agricultural commodities is skyrocketing and the price of oil has almost reached $100 a barrel once again.  The last time that the price of oil soared above $100 a barrel was in the early part of 2008, and we all remember the horrific financial collapse that followed in the fall of 2008.

#2 “….you’re going to pay $25 for a loaf of bread pretty soon. Look at what’s happening with our food prices. They’re going through the roof. We could end up being another Egypt. You could have riots in our streets also.”

The price of corn has risen 88 percent over the past year and the price of wheat has soared a whopping 114 percent over the past year.  Let’s hope that we don’t have to pay $25 for a loaf of bread in the United States any time soon, but in some areas of the world that is what it now feels like.

Approximately 3 billion people in the world today live on the equivalent of $2 a day or less, and most of that money ends up getting spent on food.  When food prices go up 10 or 20 percent in deeply impoverished areas of the globe, suddenly the lives of millions are threatened.  The riots that we have seen in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and other nations recently were not entirely caused by rising food prices, but they were certainly a big factor.

#3 “I think gold will go up as long as people don’t have confidence in our president and our country. And they don’t have confidence in our president.”

Investors run to gold and other precious metals when they don’t feel secure.  We saw that happen a lot in 2010.  As confidence in the paper currencies and the financial systems of the world has rapidly diminished, precious metals have become increasingly attractive.

In fact, the price of gold has doubled since the beginning of the economic downturn in 2007.  As the global financial situation continues to become more unstable, the demand for precious metals is likely only going to become more intense.

#4 “The banks have really let us down. Number one, they did some bad things and caused some bad problems. Number two, if you have something that you want to buy, like a house, they’re generally not there for you.”

Banks were given massive bailouts with the understanding that they would open up the vaults and start lending money to average Americans again.

Well, that has not happened.

In particular, it has become much, much harder to get a mortgage in the United States today.  Not that the big banks didn’t need to make changes to their lending practices, but things have gotten so tight now that it is choking the real estate market to death.

#5 “I see $3.50 for a gallon of gas for cars, and cars are lined up trying to get it and it’s $3.50. It’s a shame, a ridiculous shame.”

Our lack of a cohesive energy policy is a national disgrace.  There is no way in the world that a gallon of gas should be $3.50 a gallon.

The U.S. has massive reserves of oil and natural gas that it should be using.  In addition, the lack of progress on developing alternative energy sources in light of our sickening dependence on foreign oil is very puzzling.  We should be very far along towards solving our energy problems by this point.

Meanwhile, we keep pouring billions into the pockets of foreign oil barons every single month.  Unfortunately, Trump was exactly correct in the interview – if something is not done the price of gas is going to keep going higher.

#6 “I think the biggest threat is that our jobs are being stolen by other countries. We’re not going to have any jobs here pretty soon.”

Donal Trump is one of the few prominent leaders that is openly speaking the truth about the predatory economic practices of some of our “trading partners”.  Most of our politicians have just kept endlessly promising us that free trade is “good for us” even as tens of thousands of factories and millions upon millions of jobs have been shipped overseas.

Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.

Yes, computers and robots have replaced a lot of manual labor today, but technology does not account for most of the decline we have seen in manufacturing.

n 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of all U.S. economic output.  In 2008, it represented only 11.5 percent.  Meanwhile, manufacturing in the “developing world” has absolutely exploded.

#7 “We’re like a whipping post for other countries. We are standing there and just being beaten by South Korea, by Mexico, by China, by India.”

Most Americans have absolutely no idea how lopsided many of our “trade agreements” actually are.  Other nations openly manipulate their currencies in order to keep their exports dirt cheap and we allow it.  Other nations openly subsidize their domestic industries that are directly competing with businesses in the United States and we don’t complain.  Other nations make it incredibly difficult for American companies to do business in their countries while we allow foreign corporations to come on in and do pretty much whatever they want here.

Then there are certain nations (such as China) that brazenly rip off trade secrets from foreign corporations time after time after time and never get penalized for it.

Meanwhile, our economy continues to bleed jobs at a staggering pace.  The number of net jobs gained by the U.S. economy during this past decade was smaller than during any other decade since World War 2.

Fortunately, more Americans than ever seem to be waking up and are realizing that globalism is causing many of these problems.  A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted last year discovered that 69 percent of Americans now believe that free trade agreements have cost America jobs.

#8 “All of our jobs are going to China. We’re rebuilding China and other places.”

China is doing great.  China is now the number one producer in the world of wind and solar power.  They now possess the fastest supercomputer on the entire globe.  China also now has the world’s fastest train and the world’s biggest high-speed rail network.

Most Americans don’t realize that China is literally kicking the crap out of us.

Back in 1998, the United States had 25 percent of the world’s high-tech export market and China had just 10 percent. Ten years later, the United States had less than 15 percent and China’s share had soared to 20 percent.

Every single month we buy about 4 times as much stuff from them as they buy from us.  Our trade deficit with China has ballooned to enormous proportions.  In fact, the U.S. trade deficit with China during this past August was more than 4,600 times larger than the U.S. trade deficit with China was for the entire year of 1985.

So when Donald Trump says that we are rebuilding China he is not joking around.

Nobel economist Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago is projecting that the Chinese economy will be three times larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2040 if current trends continue.

Yes, that is how serious things have become.

#9 “We are a laughingstock throughout the world.”

Donald Trump has said on several occasions that his friends and business partners in China just laugh and laugh at us.  They can’t even believe what they are getting away with.

We have become an incompetent giant that is the butt of all the jokes.

According to Stanford University economics professor Ed Lazear, if the U.S. economy and the Chinese economy continue to grow at current rates, the average Chinese citizen will be wealthier than the average American citizen in just 30 years.

Our formerly great industrial cities are slowly becoming ghost towns.  The number of long-term unemployed Americans is at an all-time high.  Tens of millions of Americans can’t even survive without government assistance anymore.  The number of Americans on food stamps set a new all-time record every single month during 2010, and now well over 43 million Americans are enrolled in the program.

We really have become a joke.

#10 “The federal government has no money.”

Unfortunately, our federal government has continued to borrow and spend like there is no tomorrow.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. government will have the biggest budget deficit ever recorded (approximately 1.5 trillion dollars) this year.

So much for fiscal discipline, eh?

It is being projected that the U.S. national debt will increase by $150,000 per U.S. household between 2009 and 2021.

Do you have an extra $150,000 to contribute for your share?

By 2015 our national debt will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 trillion dollars.

It is the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world by far, and it is the gift that we are going to pass down to future generations of Americans.

If there are any future generations of Americans.

#11 “I hate what is happening to this country.”

We should all hate what is happening to this country.  Our economic guts are being ripped out, we are being abused by the rest of the world, America’s infrastructure is being sold off piece by piece, our federal government is drowning in debt, our state governments are drowning in debt and our local governments are drowning in debt.

The only way we can even keep going is to run around to the rest of the world and beg them to keep lending us more money.

The mainstream media keeps proclaiming that we are the greatest economy on earth, but the truth is that we are being transformed into a pathetic loser and our politicians are just standing there with their hands in their pockets letting it happen.

All red-blooded Americans should be horrified by what is happening to this nation.  We have been betrayed by corrupt and incompetent leaders.  As a nation, we have become fat, lazy and stupid.

Hopefully what Donald Trump and others are saying about a coming economic collapse will serve as a huge wake up call and the sleeping giant will arise once again.

If the sleeping giant does not arise, we are in a massive amount of trouble, because right now the road we are on is leading to the biggest economic collapse the world has ever seen.

Housing Armageddon: 12 Facts Which Show That We Are In The Midst Of The Worst Housing Collapse In U.S. History

We are officially in the middle of the worst housing collapse in U.S. history – and unfortunately it is going to get even worse.  Already, U.S. housing prices have fallen further during this economic downturn (26 percent), then they did during the Great Depression (25.9 percent).  Approximately 11 percent of all homes in the United States are currently standing empty.  In fact, there are many new housing developments across the U.S. that resemble little more than ghost towns because foreclosures have wiped them out.  Mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures reached new highs in 2010, and it is being projected that banks and financial institutions will repossess at least a million more U.S. homes during 2011.  Meanwhile, unemployment is absolutely rampant and wage levels are going down at a time when mortgage lending standards have been significantly tightened.  That means that there are very few qualified buyers running around out there and that is going to continue to be the case for quite some time to come.  When you add all of those factors up, it leads to one inescapable conclusion.  The “housing Armageddon” that we have been experiencing since 2007 is going to get even worse in 2011.

Right now there is a gigantic mountain of unsold homes in the United States.  It is estimated that banks and financial institutions will repossess at least a million more homes this year and this will make the supply of unsold properties even worse.  At the same time, millions of American families have been scared out of the market by this recent crisis and millions of others cannot qualify for a home loan any longer.  That means that the demand for unsold homes is at extremely low levels.

So what happens when supply is really high and demand is really low?

That’s right – prices go down.

Hopefully housing prices don’t have too much farther to go down.  Ben Bernanke and the boys over at the Federal Reserve are doing their best to flood the system with new dollars in order to prop up asset values, but you just can’t create qualified home buyers out of thin air.

Many analysts are projecting that U.S. housing prices will decline another ten or twenty percent before they hit bottom.  In fact, quite a few economists believe that the total price decline from the peak of the market in 2006 will end up being somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 percent.

But whether prices go down any further or not, the truth is that the housing crash that we have already witnessed is absolutely unprecedented.

The following are 12 facts which show that we are in the midst of the worst housing collapse in U.S. history….

#1 Approximately 11 percent of all homes in the United States are currently standing empty.

#2 The rate of home ownership in the United States has dropped like a rock.  At this point it has fallen all the way back to 1998 levels.

#3 According to the S&P/Case-Shiller index, U.S. home prices fell 1.3 percent in October and another 1 percent in November.  In fact, November represented the fourth monthly decline in a row for U.S. housing prices.  Many economists are now openly using the term “double-dip” to describe what is happening to the housing market.

#4 The number of homes that were actually repossessed reached the 1 million mark for the first time ever during 2010.

#5 According to RealtyTrac, a total of 3 million homes were repossessed by mortgage lenders between January 2007 and August 2010.  This represents a huge amount of additional inventory that somehow must be sold.

#6 72 percent of the major metropolitan areas in the United States had more foreclosures in 2010 than they did in 2009.

#7 According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, at least 8 million Americans are at least one month behind on their mortgage payments.

#8 It is estimated that there are about 5 million homeowners in the United States that are at least two months behind on their mortgages, and it is being projected that over a million American families will be booted out of their homes this year alone.

#9 Deutsche Bank is projecting that 48 percent of all U.S. mortgages could have negative equity by the end of 2011.

#10 Some formerly great industrial cities are rapidly turning into ghost towns.  For example, in Dayton, Ohio today 18.9 percent of all houses are now standing empty.  21.5 percent of all houses in New Orleans, Louisiana are standing vacant.

#11 According to Zillow, U.S. home prices have already fallen further during this economic downturn (26 percent) than they did during the Great Depression (25.9 percent).

#12 There are very few signs that the employment situation in the United States is going to improve any time soon.  4.2 million Americans have been unemployed for one year or longer at this point.  While there has been some nominal improvement in the government unemployment numbers recently, other organizations are reporting that things are getting even worse.  According to Gallup, the unemployment rate actually rose to 9.6% at the end of December.  This was a significant increase from 9.3% in mid-December and 8.8% at the end of November.

But even many Americans that do have jobs are finding out that it has become very, very hard to qualify for a home loan.

In an attempt to avoid the mistakes of the past, banks and financial institutions have become very stingy with home loans.  While it was certainly wise for them to make some changes, the truth is that perhaps the pendulum has swung too far at this point.  The U.S. housing industry will never fully recover if they can’t get their customers approved for mortgages.

Congress is talking about passing even more laws that will make it even more difficult to get home loans.  Even though they give speeches about how they want to help the U.S. housing industry, the truth is that Republicans and Democrats are both backing proposals that would make home mortgages much more expensive and much more difficult to obtain as a Bloomberg article recently explained….

Government officials and lawmakers want to make the market less vulnerable to another credit crisis, and all the options lead the same general direction: Borrowers will need larger down payments than in the bubble years, have higher credit scores, and pay extra fees to cover risks and premiums for federal guarantees on government-backed mortgage bonds.

While all that may sound reasonable, the truth is that the U.S. middle class has become so cash poor that the vast majority of them cannot afford homes without the kind of mortgages that were available in the past.

Not that we should go back and repeat the mistakes of the past 20 years.  It is just that nobody should expect the U.S. housing market to “bounce back” in an environment that has fundamentally changed.

The housing market is not like other financial markets.  It is difficult to artificially pump it up with funny money.  If the U.S. housing market is going to rebound, it is going to take lots of average American families getting qualified for loans and going out and buying houses.  But they can’t do this if they do not have good jobs.  Today, only 47 percent of working-age Americans have a full-time job at this point.  Without a jobs recovery there never will be a housing recovery.

In fact, there are all kinds of warning signs that seem to indicate that the U.S. economy could get even worse in 2011.  Many economists are now openly using the word “stagflation” for the first time since the 1970s.  Back in the 70s we had both high unemployment and high inflation at the same time.

Well, we have already had very high unemployment, and thanks to the relentless money printing of the Federal Reserve, it looks like we are going to have high inflation as well.

Middle class American families are going to be spending even more of their resources just trying to survive, and this is going to make it more difficult for them to purchase homes.

In fact, in recent years average Americans have been getting significantly poorer.  Over the past two years, U.S. consumers have withdrawn $311 billion more from savings and investment accounts than they have put into them.  That is very troubling news.

Now the price of food is soaring and the price of oil is about to cross $100 a barrel again.  So what is going to happen if we have another major financial crisis and we witness another huge spike in the unemployment rate?

The Federal Reserve is trying to smooth all of our problems over with a flood of paper money, but it isn’t going to work.  Yes, increasing the money supply will produce some false highs on the stock market and some false economic growth statistics for a while, but the tremendous damage that will be done to the economy is just not worth it.

In any event, let us all hope that we see some really great real estate deals over the next couple of years, because in the times ahead land will be something very good to own.  In fact, down the road it will be much better to own land than to have your money sitting in the bank where it will continuously decline in value.

Use your paper money wisely.  It will never have more value than it does today.

So what do all of you think?  Is the “housing Armageddon” almost over, or do housing prices still need to decline a bit more?  Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion below….

20 Shocking New Economic Records That Were Set In 2010

2010 was quite a year, wasn’t it?  2010 will be remembered for a lot of things, but for those living in the United States, one of the main things that last year will be remembered for is economic decline.  The number of foreclosure filings set a new record, the number of home repossessions set a new record, the number of bankruptcies went up again, the number of Americans that became so discouraged that they simply quit looking for work reached a new all-time high and the number of Americans on food stamps kept setting a brand new record every single month.  Meanwhile, U.S. government debt reached record highs, state government debt reached record highs and local government debt reached record highs.  What a mess!  In fact, even many of the “good” economic records that were set during 2010 were indications of underlying economic weakness.  For example, the price of gold set an all-time record during 2010, but one of the primary reasons for the increase in the price of gold was that the U.S. dollar was rapidly losing value.  Most Americans had been hoping that 2010 would be the beginning of better times, but unfortunately economic conditions just kept getting worse.

So will things improve in 2011?  That would be nice, but at this point there are not a whole lot of reasons to be optimistic about the economy.  The truth is that we are trapped in a period of long-term economic decline and we are now paying the price for decades of horrible decisions.

Amazingly, many of our politicians and many in the mainstream media have declared that “the recession is over” and that the U.S. economy is steadily improving now.

Well, if anyone tries to tell you that the economy got better in 2010, just show them the statistics below.  That should shut them up for a while.

The following are 20 new economic records that were set during 2010….

#1 An all-time record of 2.87 million U.S. households received a foreclosure filing in 2010.

#2 The number of homes that were actually repossessed reached the 1 million mark for the first time ever during 2010.

#3 The price of gold moved above $1400 an ounce for the first time ever during 2010.

#4 According to the American Bankruptcy Institute, approximately 1.53 million consumer bankruptcy petitions were filed in 2010, which was up 9 percent from 1.41 million in 2009.  This was the highest number of personal bankruptcies we have seen since the U.S. Congress substantially tightened U.S. bankruptcy law several years ago.

#5 At one point during 2010, the average time needed to find a job in the United States had risen to an all-time record of 35.2 weeks.

#6 Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs, which is believed to be a new record low.

#7 The number of Americans working part-time jobs “for economic reasons” was the highest it has been in at least five decades during 2010.

#8 The number of American workers that are so discouraged that they have given up searching for work reached an all-time high near the end of 2010.

#9 Government spending continues to set new all-time records.  In fact, at the moment the U.S. government is spending approximately 6.85 million dollars every single minute.

#10 The number of Americans on food stamps surpassed 43 million by the end of 2010.  This was a new all-time record, and government officials fully expect the number of Americans enrolled in the program to continue to increase throughout 2011.

#11 The number of Americans on Medicaid surpassed 50 million for the first time ever in 2010.

#12 The U.S. Census Bureau originally announced that 43.6 million Americans are now living in poverty and according to them that was the highest number of Americans living in poverty that they had ever recorded in 51 years of record-keeping.  But now the Census Bureau says that they miscalculated and that the real number of poor Americans is actually 47.8 million.

#13 According to the FDIC, 157 banks failed during 2010.  That was the highest number of bank failures that the United States has experienced in any single year during the past decade.

#14 The Federal Reserve brought in a record $80.9 billion in profits during 2010.  They returned $78.4 billion of that to the U.S. Treasury, but the real story is that thanks to the Federal Reserve’s continual debasement of our currency, the U.S. dollar was worth less in 2010 than it ever had been before.

#15 It is projected that the major financial firms on Wall Street will pay out an all-time record of $144 billion in compensation for 2010.

#16 Americans now owe more than $881 billion on student loans, which is a new all-time record.

#17 In July, sales of new homes in the United States declined to the lowest level ever recorded.

#18 According to Zillow, U.S. housing prices have now declined a whopping 26 percent since their peak in June 2006.  Amazingly, this is even farther than house prices fell during the Great Depression.  From 1928 to 1933, U.S. housing prices only fell 25.9 percent.

#19 State and local government debt reached at an all-time record of 22 percent of U.S. GDP during 2010.

#20 The U.S. national debt has surpassed the 14 trillion dollar mark for the first time ever and it is being projected that it will soar well past 15 trillion during 2011.

There are some people that have a hard time really grasping what statistics actually mean.  For people like that, often pictures and charts are much more effective.  Well, that is one reason I like to include pictures and graphs in many of my articles, and below I have posted my favorite chart from this past year.  It shows the growth of the U.S. national debt from 1940 until today.  I honestly don’t know how anyone can look at this chart and still be convinced that our nation is not headed for a complete financial meltdown….

14 Eye Opening Statistics Which Reveal Just How Dramatically The U.S. Economy Has Collapsed Since 2007

Most Americans have become so accustomed to the “new normal” of continual economic decline that they don’t even remember how good things were just a few short years ago.  Back in 2007, unemployment was very low, good jobs were much easier to get, far fewer Americans were living in poverty or enrolled in welfare programs and government finances were in much better shape.  Of course most of this prosperity was fueled by massive amounts of debt, but at least times were better.  Unfortunately, things have really deteriorated over the last several years.  Since 2007, unemployment has skyrocketed, foreclosures have set new all-time records, personal bankruptcies have soared and U.S. government debt has gotten completely and totally out of control.  Poll after poll has shown that Americans are now far less optimistic about the future than they were in 2007.  It is almost as if the past few years have literally sucked the hope out of millions upon millions of Americans.

Sadly, our economic situation is continually getting worse.  Every month the United States loses more factories.  Every month the United States loses more jobs.  Every month the collective wealth of U.S. citizens continues to decline.  Every month the federal government goes into even more debt.  Every month state and local governments go into even more debt.

Unfortunately, things are going to get even worse in the years ahead.  Right now we look back on 2005, 2006 and 2007 as “good times”, but in a few years we will look back on 2010 and 2011 as “good times”.

We are in the midst of a long-term economic decline, and the very bad economic choices that we have been making as a nation for decades are now starting to really catch up with us.

So as horrible as you may think that things are now, just keep in mind that things are going to continue to deteriorate in the years ahead.

But for the moment, let us remember how far we have fallen over the past few years.  The following are 14 eye opening statistics which reveal just how dramatically the U.S. economy has collapsed since 2007….

#1 In November 2007, the official U.S. unemployment rate was just 4.7 percent.  Today, the official U.S. unemployment rate is 9.4 percent.

#2 In November 2007, 18.8% of unemployed Americans had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.  Today that percentage is up to 41.9%.

#3 As 2007 began, there were just over 1 million Americans that had been unemployed for half a year or longer.  Today, there are over 6 million Americans that have been unemployed for half a year or longer.

#4 Nearly 10 million Americans now receive unemployment insurance, which is almost four times as many as were receiving it back in 2007.

#5 More than half of the U.S. labor force (55 percent) has “suffered a spell of unemployment, a cut in pay, a reduction in hours or have become involuntary part-time workers” since the “recession” began in December 2007.

#6 According to one analysis, the United States has lost a total of approximately 10.5 million jobs since 2007.

#7 As 2007 began, only 26 million Americans were on food stamps.  Today, an all-time record of 43.2 million Americans are enrolled in the food stamp program.

#8 In 2007, the U.S. government held a total of $725 billion in mortgage debt.  As of the middle of 2010, the U.S. government held a total of $5.148 trillion in mortgage debt.

#9 In the year prior to the “official” beginning of the most recent recession in 2007, the IRS filed just 684,000 tax liens against U.S. taxpayers.  During 2010, the IRS filed over a million tax liens against U.S. taxpayers.

#10 From the year 2000 through the year 2007, there were 27 bank failures in the United States.  From 2008 through 2010, there were 314 bank failures in the United States.

#11 According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the number of U.S. families with children living in homeless shelters increased from 131,000 to 170,000 between 2007 and 2009.

#12 In 2007, one poll found that 43 percent of Americans were living “paycheck to paycheck”.  Sadly, according to a survey released very close to the end of 2010, approximately 55 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck.

#13 In 2007, the “official” federal budget deficit was just 161 billion dollars.  In 2010, the “official” federal budget deficit was approximately 1.3 trillion dollars.

#14 As 2007 began, the U.S. national debt was just under 8.7 trillion dollars.  Today, the U.S. national debt has just surpassed 14 trillion dollars and it continues to soar into the stratosphere.

So is there any hope that we can turn all of this around?

Unfortunately, the massive amount of debt that we have piled up as a society over the last several decades has made that impossible.

If you add up all forms of debt (government debt, business debt, individual debt), it comes to approximately 360 percent of GDP.  It is the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world.

If the federal government and our state governments stop borrowing and spending so much money, our economy would collapse.  But if they keep borrowing and spending so much money they will continually make the eventual economic collapse even worse.

We are in the terminal stages of the most horrific debt spiral the world has ever seen, and when the debt spiral gets stopped the house of cards is going to finally come down for good.

So enjoy these times while you still have them.  Yes, today is not nearly as prosperous as 2007 was, but today is most definitely a whole lot better than 2015 or 2020 is going to be.

Sadly, we could have avoided this financial disaster completely if only we had listened more carefully to those that founded this nation.  Once upon a time, Thomas Jefferson said the following….

I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.

The Real Horror Story: The U.S. Economic Meltdown

This October, millions of Americans are going to watch horror movies and read horror stories because they enjoy being frightened.  Well, if you really want to be scared, you should just check out the real horror story unfolding right before our eyes – the U.S. economic meltdown.  It seems like more bad news for the U.S. economy comes out almost every single day now.  Unfortunately, things are about to get a whole lot worse.  The mainstream media has been treating “Foreclosuregate” as if it is a minor nuisance, but the truth is that the lid is about to be publicly lifted on years and years of massive fraud in the U.S. mortgage industry, and this thing has the potential to cause economic chaos that is absolutely unprecedented.  Over the past several days, expert after expert has been coming forward and warning that this crisis could completely and totally paralyze the mortgage industry in the United States.  If that happens, it will be essentially like pulling the plug on the U.S. economic recovery. 

Not that there was going to be a recovery anyway.  The truth is that economic statistic after economic statistic has been pointing to incredible trouble for the U.S. economy.

For example, the U.S. government just announced that the U.S. trade deficit went up again in August.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. trade deficit was $46.3 billion during August, which was up significantly from $42.6 billion in July.

So how much coverage did this get in the mainstream media? 

Well, just about none.

We have gotten so used to horrific trade deficits that it isn’t even news anymore.

But these trade deficits are absolutely killing our economy.

How long do you think that the U.S. economy can keep shelling out 40 or 50 billion more dollars than we take in every single month?

If you look at the countries around the world that have become very wealthy, almost all of them have gotten that way by trading with the United States.

Meanwhile, many of our once great manufacturing cities are turning into open sewers.

Every single politician in the United States should be talking about the trade deficit.

But hardly any of them are.

Is it because Americans have all become so dumbed-down that we don’t understand these things anymore, or is it because we are so distracted by the various forms of entertainment that we are addicted to that we just don’t care? 

But the trade deficit is not the only economic statistic that is getting worse.

According to the Department of Labor, for the week ending October 9th the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims was 462,000, which represented an increase of 13,000 from the previous week.

We have an unemployment epidemic going on in this country, but what did the mainstream media do in response to this news?

They yawned.  Instead, many of the “financial experts” were busy talking about how wonderful it is that the Stock Market is going up, up, up.

Well, as one reader recently reminded me, if you want to evaluate an economy by how much the stock market is going up, then the economy of Zimbabwe has had an absolutely wonderful decade!

The truth is that the stock market is not a good barometer for what is actually going on.

What is really happening is that the U.S. economic system is literally coming apart at the seams. 

Yet another piece of really bad economic news that just came out is that the number of home repossessions by banks set a new all-time record during the month of September.  The record total of 102,134 bank repossessions was the first time ever that bank repossessions climbed over the 100,000 mark for a single month.

The good news is that bank repossessions are about to come to a screeching halt.

The bad news is that it is because the U.S. mortgage industry is about to become completely and totally paralyzed by this foreclosure fraud crisis.

The following are three basic points to remember about this foreclosure mess….

A) Massive Fraud Was Committed At Every Stage By The Mortgage Industry

In a previous article entitled “Foreclosure Fraud: 6 Things You Need To Know About The Crisis That Could Potentially Rip The U.S. Economy To Shreds“, I attempted to describe just how widespread the fraud in the mortgage industry has been….

The truth is that there was fraud going on in every segment of the mortgage industry over the past decade.  Predatory lending institutions were aggressively signing consumers up for mortgages that they knew they could never repay.  Many consumers were also committing fraud because a lot of them also knew that they could never possibly repay the mortgages.  These bad mortgages were fraudulently bundled up and securitized, and these securitized financial instruments were fraudulently marketed as solid investments.  Those who certified that these junk securities were “AAA rated” also committed fraud.  Then these securities were traded at lightning speed all over the globe and a ton of mortgage paperwork became “lost” or “missing”.

Finally, when it came time to foreclose on these bad mortgages, a whole lot more fraud was committed.  Thousands upon thousands of foreclosure documents were “robo-signed”, but the truth is that investigators are starting to discover a lot of things about these mortgages that are a lot worse than that. 

B) Nobody Really Knows Who Owns Or Who Has The Right To Foreclose On Millions Upon Millions Of Mortgages

The legal rights to millions of U.S. mortgages has been scrambled so badly that it might actually be impossible to fully sort this mess out.  In particular, MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems) has created a paperwork nightmare that may never be able to be completely remediated. 

On a previous article, a reader named William left a comment that did a great job of describing the very serious problem that we are now facing because of MERS….

MERS – potentially the most serious problem because it affects who really owns the loans. Securitization mandates that loans be transferred into REMIC trusts within a strict timeframe. Late transfers are not allowed. In spite of the supposed “ease” of transfer through MERS, it now appears that perhaps 60% of US loans were never properly transferred. Absent remedial legislation, it is impossible to do so now. And the former owners may be out of business or bankrupt. So how do we get these loans to the trust beneficiaries who were supposed to own them? This is no simple paperwork correction. The train has left the station, with no more to follow.

C) Unprecedented Chaos Is Going To Erupt As Faith In The Mortgage System Completely Dies

So what is going to happen as a result of all of this fraud and confusion in the mortgage industry?  Well, basically everybody is going to sue everybody.  It is going to be absolute mayhem. 

Charles Hugh Smith recently put it this way….

Real estate attorneys can rejoice: everyone will get sued, in every court in the land. Banks will get sued, title insurance companies will get sued, realtors will get sued, foreclosure mills will get sued, MERS will get sued, and so on. The attorneys general of the states will all sue the banks and mortgage mills, claiming billions in damages.

Meanwhile, virtually nobody will want to buy any house that has been foreclosed on in the past ten years or so until this mess is sorted out (which could take years and years). 

Meanwhile, title insurance companies are going to avoid foreclosures like the plague.

Meanwhile, all of the investors that have been propping up the housing market by buying foreclosures are going to be fleeing the market in droves.

Meanwhile, the financial world is going to be trying to figure out which U.S. lending institutions are still solvent.  The value of most mortgage-based assets is now totally up in the air.

Meanwhile, millions more homeowners across the United States will be emboldened to quit making payments on their mortgages as they realize that those holding their mortgages may not have the legal right to foreclose on them.

And that is where the true horror of this entire situation may lie.  What is going to happen if millions upon millions of Americans holding underwater mortgages look at this situation and decide that they really don’t have to be afraid of the threat of foreclosure any longer?

If a massive wave of homeowners suddenly decides to simply quit paying their mortgages, it would basically wipe out nearly the entire mortgage industry.

That would likely mean more government bailouts, more government control, much higher mortgage rates and eventually a serious crash in housing prices.

This crisis is incredibly complicated and it has a ton of moving parts, so it is extremely difficult to describe accurately.  But the reality is that this mess has the potential to hurt the U.S. real estate market much more than “subprime mortgages” ever did.

Hopefully this crisis will not be “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for the U.S. economy, but with each passing day this thing looks even more horrifying. 

One way or another, real estate law in the United State is going to be changed forever as a result of this crisis.  It is going to be extremely interesting to see how all of this plays out.

Foreclosure Fraud: 6 Things You Need To Know About The Crisis That Could Potentially Rip The U.S. Economy To Shreds

The foreclosure fraud crisis seems to escalate with each passing now.  It is being reported that all 50 U.S. states have launched a joint investigation into alleged fraud in the mortgage industry.  This is a huge story that is not going to go away any time soon.  The truth is that it would be hard to understate the amount of fraud that has gone on in the U.S. mortgage industry, and we are watching events unfold that could potentially rip the U.S. economy to shreds.  Many are now referring to this crisis as “Foreclosure-Gate“, and already it is shaping up to be the worst thing that has ever happened to the U.S. mortgage industry.  At this point, it seems inevitable that some financial institutions will go under as a result of this mess.  In fact, by the end of this thing we might see a whole bunch of lending institutions crash and burn.  This crisis is very hard to describe because it is just so darn complicated, but it is worth it to try to dig into this thing and understand what is going on because it has the potential to absolutely decimate the entire U.S. mortgage industry.

The truth is that there was fraud going on in every segment of the mortgage industry over the past decade.  Predatory lending institutions were aggressively signing consumers up for mortgages that they knew they could never repay.  Many consumers were also committing fraud because a lot of them also knew that they could never possibly repay the mortgages.  These bad mortgages were fraudulently bundled up and securitized, and these securitized financial instruments were fraudulently marketed as solid investments.  Those who certified that these junk securities were “AAA rated” also committed fraud.  Then these securities were traded at lightning speed all over the globe and a ton of mortgage paperwork became “lost” or “missing”. 

Then, when it came time to foreclose on these bad mortgages, a whole bunch more fraud started being committed.  The reality is that the “robo-signing” scandal is just the tip of the iceberg.  The following are six things that you should know about how deep this foreclosure fraud crisis really goes….   

#1 According to the Associated Press, financial institutions were hiring just about whoever they could find, including hair stylists and Wal-Mart employees, as “foreclosure experts” to help them rush through the massive backlog of foreclosures that were rapidly piling up.

Apparently many of these “foreclosure experts” barely even knew what a “mortgage” was according to the AP….

In depositions released Tuesday, many of those workers testified that they barely knew what a mortgage was. Some couldn’t define the word “affidavit.” Others didn’t know what a complaint was, or even what was meant by personal property. Most troubling, several said they knew they were lying when they signed the foreclosure affidavits and that they agreed with the defense lawyers’ accusations about document fraud.

#2 There is soon going to be a colossal legal scramble to figure out who actually owns millions of U.S. mortgages.

In his recent article entitled “Invasion Of The Robot Home Snatchers“, Robert Scheer described the complete and total mess that the U.S. mortgage industry has created….

How do you foreclose on a home when you can’t figure out who owns it because the original mortgage is part of a derivatives package that has been sliced and diced so many ways that its legal ownership is often unrecognizable? You cannot get much help from those who signed off on the process because they turn out to be robot signers acting on automatic pilot. Fully 65 million homes in question are tied to a computerized program, the national Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), that is often identified in foreclosure proceedings as the owner of record.

Meanwhile, more organizations are stepping forward to help homeowners fight foreclosures.  National People’s Action, PICO National Network, Industrial Areas Foundation, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations have all partnered with the SEIU to launch the “Where’s The Note” campaign which is going to encourage homeowners to demand to see the note before submitting to a foreclosure.  Campaigns such as this are going to make foreclosures much more costly for banks.

#3 Legal battles over foreclosure documents could soon spawn thousands upon thousands of lawsuits across the United States.

Adam Levitin, a Georgetown University Law professor who specializes in mortgage finance and financial regulatory issues was recently quoted in an article on CNBC as saying the following about the situation we are currently in….

The mortgage is still owed, but there’s going to be a problem figuring out who actually holds the mortgage, and they would be the ones bringing the foreclosure. You have a trust that has been getting payments from borrowers for years that it has no right to receive. So you might see borrowers suing the trusts saying give me my money back, you’re stealing my money. You’re going to then have trusts that don’t have any assets that have been issuing securities that say they’re backed by a whole bunch of assets, and you’re going to have investors suing the trustees for failing to inspect the collateral files, which the trustees say they’re going to do, and you’re going to have trustees suing the securitization sponsors for violating their representations and warrantees about what they were transferring.

#4 The problems with foreclosure paperwork may be more widespread than anyone would have dared to imagine.

Attorney Richard Kessler recently conducted a study in which he found “serious errors” in approximately 75 percent of the court filings related to home repossessions that he examined.  Now he says that the foreclosure crisis could haunt the U.S. mortgage industry for the next ten years….

“Defective documentation has created millions of blighted titles that will plague the nation for the next decade.”

#5 If some banks discover that they are missing the paperwork for large numbers of mortgages (as is currently being alleged), those banks could be forced to significantly revalue those assets (as in “close to zero”) on their balance sheets. 

John Carney of CNBC recently described it this way….

The most damaging thing that could happen to banks would be the discovery that they simply cannot prove they hold a mortgage on a house. In that case, the loan would probably have to be written down to near zero. Even for current loans, the regulatory reserve requirements would double as the loan would no longer be a functional mortgage but an ordinary consumer loan. Depending on the size of the “no docs” portion of the loan portfolio, this might be a minor blip or require a bank to raise new capital to fill the hole in the balance sheet.

#6 Renowned investor Jim Sinclair is actually warning that the collapse of securitized mortgage debt could be the “final shot” that will wipe out many financial institutions across the United States. 

The recent warning that Sinclair posted on his blog is more than a little sobering…. 

I am asking for your attention again because of the depth of the fraud and now the size of the securitized mortgage debt OTC derivative pile of garbage that is in the trillions. This entire mountain of weapons of mass financial and social destruction is now in question. I have been telling you this for more than 2 years since the manufacturers and distributors of this crap were called by the NY Fed due to the loss of control over the paperwork.

I had dinner with my former partner, then lead director of and CEO of Bear Stearns. I could not contain myself so I asked him why he did so much business in OTC derivatives which were certain to bankrupt them. The answer I got was it was more than 50% of their profit. The right answer should have been it was more than 80% of their earnings.

Securitized mortgage debt is going to be the final shot that kills all kinds of financial entities in the Western world. The biggest holder of this putrid junk is pension funds.

Meanwhile, the stock market continues to go up, up, up as if everything is right in the world and as if a juicy new bull market is now upon us.

Well, let’s all join hands and sing happy songs around the campfire.

Perhaps if we all close our eyes and wish real hard all of this foreclosure fraud will just go away.

Then again, maybe not.