The Beginning Of The End
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The Waste List: 66 Crazy Ways That The U.S. Government Is Wasting Your Hard-Earned Money

The U.S. CapitolWhy did the U.S. government spend 2.6 million dollars to train Chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly?  Why did the U.S. government spend $175,587 “to determine if cocaine makes Japanese quail engage in sexually risky behavior”?  Why did the U.S. government spend nearly a million dollars on a new soccer field for detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay?  This week when I saw that the IRS was about to pay out 70 million dollars in bonuses to their employees and that the U.S. government was going to be leaving 7 billion dollars worth of military equipment behind in Afghanistan, it caused me to reflect on all of the other crazy ways that the government has been wasting our money in recent years.  So I decided to go back through my previous articles and put together a list.  I call it “The Waste List”.  Even though our politicians insist that there is very little that can still be cut out of the budget, the truth is that the federal budget is absolutely drowning in pork.  The following are 66 crazy ways that the U.S. government is wasting your hard-earned money…

#1 The IRS is about to pay out 70 million dollars in bonuses to employees even though discretionary bonuses are supposed to be cancelled due to the sequester.

#2 According to the Washington Post, the U.S. government is going to leave 7 billion dollars worth of military equipment behind in Afghanistan.

#3 It is being projected that the trip that the Obamas will be making to Africa will cost U.S. taxpayers $100,000,000.

#4 The NIH plans to spend $509,840 on a study that “will send text messages in ‘gay lingo’ to methamphetamine addicts to try to persuade them to use fewer drugs and more condoms.”

#5 The National Science Foundation has given $384,949 to Yale University to do a study on “Sexual Conflict, Social Behavior and the Evolution of Waterfowl Genitalia”.  Try not to laugh, but much of this research involves examining and measuring the reproductive organs of male ducks.

#6 The IRS spent $60,000 on a film parody of “Star Trek” and a film parody of “Gilligan’s Island”.  Internal Revenue Service employees were the actors in the two parodies, so as you can imagine the acting was really bad.

#7 The NIH has given $1.5 million to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts to study why “three-quarters” of lesbians in the United States are overweight and why most gay males are not.

#8 The NIH has also spent $2.7 million to study why lesbians have more “vulnerability to hazardous drinking”.

#9 The U.S. government is giving sixteen F-16s and 200 Abrams tanks to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt even though the new president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi (a member of the Muslim Brotherhood), constantly makes statements such as the following

“Dear brothers, we must not forget to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred towards those Zionists and Jews, and all those who support them”

#10 During 2012, the salaries of Barack Obama’s three climate change advisers combined came to a grand total of more than $370,000.

#11 Overall, 139 different White House staffers were making at least $100,000 during 2012, and there were 20 staffers that made the maximum of $172,200.

#12 Amazingly, U.S. taxpayers spend more than 1.4 billion dollars a year on the Obamas.  Meanwhile, British taxpayers only spend about 58 million dollars on the entire royal family.

#13 During 2012, $25,000 of federal money was spent on a promotional tour for the Alabama Watermelon Queen.

#14 The U.S. government spent $505,000 “to promote specialty hair and beauty products for cats and dogs” in 2012.

#15 NASA spends close to a million dollars a year developing a menu of food for a manned mission to Mars even though it is being projected that a manned mission to Mars is still decades away.

#16 During 2012, the federal government spent 15 million dollars to help the Russians recruit nuclear scientists.

#17 Over the past 15 years, a total of approximately $5.25 million has been spent on hair care services for the U.S. Senate.

#18 The U.S. government spent 27 million dollars to teach Moroccans how to design and make pottery in 2012.

#19 At a time when we have an epidemic of unemployment in the United States, the U.S. Department of Education is spending $1.3 million to “reduce linguistic, academic, and employment barriers for skilled and low-skilled immigrants and refugees, and to integrate them into the U.S. workforce and professions.”

#20 The federal government still sends about 20 million dollars a year to the surviving family members of veterans of World War I, even though World War I ended 94 years ago.

#21 The U.S. government is spending approximately 3.6 million dollars a year to support the lavish lifestyles of former presidents such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

#22 During fiscal 2012, the National Science Foundation gave researchers at Purdue University $350,000.  They used part of that money to help fund a study that discovered that if golfers imagine that a hole is bigger it will help them with their putting.

#23 The U.S. government is giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority every single year.

#24 Federal agencies have purchased a total of approximately 2 billion rounds of ammunition over the past couple of years.  It is claimed that all of this ammunition is needed for “training purposes”.

#25 During 2012, the National Science Foundation spent $516,000 on the creation of a video game called “Prom Week” which apparently simulates “all the social interactions of the event.

#26 If you can believe it, $10,000 of U.S. taxpayer money was actually used to purchase talking urinal cakes up in Michigan.

#27 When Joe Biden and his staff took a trip to London, the hotel bill cost U.S. taxpayers $459,388.65.

#28 Joe Biden and his staff also stopped in Paris for one night.  The hotel bill for that one night came to $585,000.50.

#29 If you can believe it, close to 15,000 retired federal employees are currently collecting federal pensions for life worth at least $100,000 annually.  That list includes such names as Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Trent Lott, Dick Gephardt and Dick Cheney.

#30 The U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent $300,000 to encourage Americans to eat caviar.

#31 The National Institutes of Health recently gave $666,905 to a group of researchers that is conducting a study on the benefits of watching reruns on television.

#32 The National Science Foundation has given 1.2 million dollars to a team of “scientists” that is spending part of that money on a study that is seeking to determine whether elderly Americans would benefit from playing World of Warcraft or not.

#33 The National Institutes of Health recently gave $548,731 to a team of researchers that concluded that those that drink heavily in their thirties also tend to feel more immature.

#34 The National Science Foundation recently spent $30,000 on a study to determine if “gaydar” actually exists.  This is the conclusion that the researchers reached at the end of the study….

“Gaydar is indeed real and… its accuracy is driven by sensitivity to individual facial features”

#35 In 2011, the National Institutes of Health spent $592,527 on a study that sought to figure out once and for all why chimpanzees throw poop.

#36 The National Institutes of Health has spent more than 5 million dollars on a website called Sexpulse that is targeted at “men who use the Internet to seek sex with men”.  According to Fox News, the website “includes pornographic images of homosexual sex as well as naked and scantily clad men” and features “a Space Invaders-style interactive game that uses a penis-shaped blaster to shoot down gay epithets.”

#37 The General Services Administration spent $822,751 on a “training conference” for 300 west coast employees at the M Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.  The following is how the Washington Post described some of the wasteful expenses that happened during this “conference”…

Among the “excessive, wasteful and in some cases impermissable” spending the inspector general documented: $5,600 for three semi-private catered in-room parties and $44 per person daily breakfasts; $75,000 for a “team-building” exercise — the goal was to build a bicycle; $146,000 on catered food and drinks; and $6,325 on commemorative coins in velvet boxes to reward all participants for their work on stimulus projects. The $31,208 “networking” reception featured a $19-per-person artisanal cheese display and $7,000 of sushi. At the conference’s closing-night dinner, employees received “yearbooks” with their pictures, at a cost of $8,130.

You can see some stunning pictures of GSA employees living the high life in Las Vegas right here.

#38 Do you remember when credit rating agency Egan Jones downgraded U.S. government debt from AA+ to AA?  Well, someone in the federal government apparently did not like that at all.  According to Zero Hedge, the SEC planned to file charges against Egan Jones for “misstatements” on a regulatory application with the SEC.

Normally, the SEC does not go after anyone.  After all, when is the last time a major banker went to prison?

No, the truth is that the SEC is usually just a huge waste of taxpayer money.  According to ABC News, one investigation found that 17 senior SEC officials had been regularly viewing pornography while at work.  While the American people were paying their salaries, this is what senior SEC officials were busy doing…

One senior attorney at SEC headquarters in Washington spent up to eight hours a day accessing Internet porn, according to the report, which has yet to be released. When he filled all the space on his government computer with pornographic images, he downloaded more to CDs and DVDs that accumulated in boxes in his offices.

An SEC accountant attempted to access porn websites 1,800 times in a two-week period and had 600 pornographic images on her computer hard drive.

Another SEC accountant used his SEC-issued computer to upload his own sexually explicit videos onto porn websites he joined.

And another SEC accountant attempted to access porn sites 16,000 times in a single month.

#39 According to InformationWeek, the federal government is spending “millions of dollars” to train Asian call center workers.

#40 If you can believe it, the federal government has actually spent $750,000 on a new soccer field for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.

#41 The U.S. Agency for International Development spent 10 million dollars to create a version of “Sesame Street” for Pakistani television.

#42 The Obama administration has plans to spend between 16 and 20 million dollars to help students from Indonesia get master’s degrees.

#43 The National Science Foundation spent $198,000 on a University of California-Riverside study that explored “motivations, expectations and goal pursuit in social media.” One of the questions the study sought an answer to was the following: “Do unhappy people spend more time on Twitter or Facebook?”

#44 In 2011, $147,138 was given to the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan.  Their best magic trick is making U.S. taxpayer dollars disappear.

#45 The federal government recently spent $74,000 to help Michigan “increase awareness about the role Michigan plays in the production of trees and poinsettias.”

#46 In 2011, the federal government gave $550,000 toward the making of a documentary about how rock and roll contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union.

#47 The National Institutes of Health has contributed $55,382 toward a study of “hookah smoking habits” in the country of Jordan.

#48 The federal government gave $606,000 to researchers at Columbia University to study how heterosexuals use the Internet to find love.

#49 A total of $133,277 was recently given to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games for video game preservation.  The International Center for the History of Electronic Games says that it “collects, studies, and interprets video games, other electronic games, and related materials and the ways in which electronic games are changing how people play, learn, and connect with each other, including across boundaries of culture and geography.”

#50 The federal government has given approximately $3 million to researchers at the University of California at Irvine to fund their “research” into video games such as World of Warcraft.

#51 In 2011, the National Science Foundation gave one team of researchers $149,990 to create a video game called “RapidGuppy” for cell phones and other mobile devices.

#52 In 2011, $936,818 was spent developing an online soap opera entitled “Diary of a Single Mom”.  The show “chronicles the lives and challenges of three single mothers and their families trying to get ahead despite obstacles that all single mothers face, such as childcare, healthcare, education, and finances.”

#53 Last year, the federal government spent $96,000 to buy iPads for kindergarten students in Maine.

#54 The U.S. Postal Service once spent $13,500 for a single dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

#55 In 2011, the Air Force Academy completed work on an outdoor worship area for pagans and Wiccans.  The worship area consists of “a small Stonehenge-like circle of boulders with [a] propane fire pit” and it cost $51,474 to build.  The worship area is “for the handful of current or future cadets whose religions fall under the broad category of ‘Earth-based’, which includes Wiccans, druids and pagans.”  At this point, that only includes 3 current students at the Air Force Academy.

#56 The National Institutes of Health once gave researchers $400,000 to study why gay men in Argentina engage in risky sexual behavior when they are drunk.

#57 The National Institutes of Health once gave researchers $442,340 to study the behavior of male prostitutes in Vietnam.

#58 The National Institutes of Health once spent $800,000 in “stimulus funds” to study the impact of a “genital-washing program” on men in South Africa.

#59 The National Science Foundation recently spent $200,000 on a study that examined how voters react when politicians change their stances on climate change.

#60 The federal government recently spent $484,000 to help build a Mellow Mushroom pizzeria in Arlington, Texas.

#61 At this point, China is holding over a trillion dollars of U.S. government debt.  But that didn’t stop the United States from sending 17.8 million dollars in foreign aid to China in 2011.

#62 The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave the largest snack food maker in the world (PepsiCo Inc.) a total of 1.3 million dollars in corporate welfare that was used to help build “a Greek yogurt factory in New York.

#63 The National Science Foundation recently gave a whopping $697,177 to a New York City-based theater company to produce a musical about climate change.

#64 The federal government once shelled out $2.6 million to train Chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly.

#65 The U.S. Department of Agriculture once handed researchers at the University of New Hampshire $700,000 to study methane gas emissions from dairy cows.

#66 The federal government has spent $175,587 “to determine if cocaine makes Japanese quail engage in sexually risky behavior”.

The Big Banks Are Recklessly Gambling With Our Money, And It Will Cause The Global Financial System To Collapse

The Big Banks Are Recklessly Gambling With Our Money, And It Will Cause The Global Financial System To Collapse - Photo by Jamie AdamsHave you ever wondered how the big banks make such enormous mountains of money?  Well, the truth is that much of it is made by gambling recklessly.  If they win on their bets, they become fabulously wealthy.  If they lose on their bets, they know that the government will come in and arrange for the banks to be bailed out because they are “too big to fail”.  Either they will be bailed out by the government using our tax dollars, or as we just witnessed in Cyprus, they will be allowed to “recapitalize” themselves by stealing money directly from our bank accounts.  So if they win, they win big.  If they lose, someone else will come in and clean up the mess.  This creates a tremendous incentive for the bankers to “go for it”, because there is simply not enough pain in this equation for those that are taking the risks.  If the big Wall Street banks had been allowed to collapse back in 2008, that would have caused a massive change of behavior on Wall Street.  But instead, the big banks are still recklessly gambling with our money as if the last financial crisis never even happened.  In the end, the reckless behavior of these big banks is going to cause the entire global financial system to collapse.

Have you noticed how most news reports about Cyprus don’t even get into the reasons why the big banks in Cyprus collapsed?

Well, the truth is that they collapsed because they were making incredibly reckless bets with the money that had been entrusted to them.  In a recent article, Ron Paul explained how the situation played out once the bets started to go bad…

The dramatic recent events in Cyprus have highlighted the fundamental weakness in the European banking system and the extreme fragility of fractional reserve banking. Cypriot banks invested heavily in Greek sovereign debt, and last summer’s Greek debt restructuring resulted in losses equivalent to more than 25 percent of Cyprus’ GDP. These banks then took their bad investments to the government, demanding a bailout from an already beleaguered Cypriot treasury. The government of Cyprus then turned to the European Union (EU) for a bailout.

If those bets had turned out to be profitable, the bankers would have kept all of the profits.  But those bets turned out to be big losers, and private bank accounts in Cyprus are now being raided to pay the bill.  Unfortunately, as Ron Paul noted, what just happened in Cyprus is already being touted as a “template” for future bank bailouts all over the globe…

The elites in the EU and IMF failed to learn their lesson from the popular backlash to these tax proposals, and have openly talked about using Cyprus as a template for future bank bailouts. This raises the prospect of raids on bank accounts, pension funds, and any investments the government can get its hands on. In other words, no one’s money is safe in any financial institution in Europe. Bank runs are now a certainty in future crises, as the people realize that they do not really own the money in their accounts. How long before bureaucrat and banker try that here?

Unfortunately, all of this is the predictable result of a fiat paper money system combined with fractional reserve banking. When governments and banks collude to monopolize the monetary system so that they can create money out of thin air, the result is a business cycle that wreaks havoc on the economy. Pyramiding more and more loans on top of a tiny base of money will create an economic house of cards just waiting to collapse. The situation in Cyprus should be both a lesson and a warning to the United States.

This is an example of what can happen when the dominoes start to fall.  The banks of Cyprus failed because Greek debt went bad.  And the Greeks were using derivatives to try to hide the true scope of their debt problems.  The following is what Jim Sinclair recently told King World News

When people say that the Cypriot banks lost because of being in Greek debt, what was one of the Greeks’ greatest sins? They used over-the-counter derivatives in order to hide the real condition of their balance sheet.

Depositor money, brokerage money, and clearing house money have been tangled up in the mountain of derivatives as the banks have used this cash to speculate in an attempt to make huge bonuses for bank executives.

As I have written about so many times, the global quadrillion dollar derivatives bubble is one of the greatest threats that the global financial system is facing.  As Sinclair explained to King World News, when this derivatives bubble bursts and the losses start soaring, the big banks are going to want to raid private bank accounts just like the banks in Cyprus were able to…

What do you think happens when Buffett reports that he made $10 billion in derivatives? Somebody else lost $10 billion and it was most likely one financial institution. There is no question that what we are seeing right now is not isolated to Cyprus. It has happened everywhere, but is has been camouflaged by making the depositors and the banks whole. What Cyprus will reveal is that losses do not stop with the bank’s capital. Losses roar right through bank capital and take depositors’ money.

This could have all been avoided if we had allowed the big Wall Street banks to collapse back in 2008.  Reckless behavior would have been greatly punished and banks would have chosen to do business differently in the future.

David Stockman, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan, says that because we bailed out the big banks it was a signal to them that they could go back and freely engage in the same kind of reckless behavior that they were involved in previously

Essentially there was a cleansing run on the wholesale funding market in the canyons of Wall Street going on. It would have worked its will, just like JP Morgan allowed it to happen in 1907 when we did not have the Fed getting in the way. Because they stopped it in its tracks after the AIG bailout and then all the alphabet soup of different lines that the Fed threw out, and then the enactment of TARP, the last two investment banks standing were rescued, Goldman and Morgan [Stanley], and they should not have been. As a result of being rescued and having the cleansing liquidation of rotten balance sheets stopped, within a few weeks and certainly months they were back to the same old games, such that Goldman Sachs got $10 billion dollars for the fiscal year that started three months later after that check went out, which was October 2008. For the fiscal 2009 year, Goldman Sachs generated what I call a $29 billion surplus – $13 billion of net income after tax, and on top of that $16 billion of salaries and bonuses, 95% of it which was bonuses.

Therefore, the idea that they were on death’s door does not stack up. Even if they had been, it would not make any difference to the health of the financial system. These firms are supposed to come and go, and if people make really bad bets, if they have a trillion dollar balance sheet with six, seven, eight hundred billion dollars worth of hot-money short-term funding, then they ought to take their just reward, because it would create lessons, it would create discipline. So all the new firms that would have been formed out of the remnants of Goldman Sachs where everybody lost their stock values – which for most of these partners is tens of millions, hundreds of millions – when they formed a new firm, I doubt whether they would have gone back to the old game. What happened was the Fed stopped everything in its tracks, kept Goldman Sachs intact, the reckless Goldman Sachs and the reckless Morgan Stanley, everyone quickly recovered their stock value and the game continues. This is one of the evils that comes from this kind of deep intervention in the capital and money markets.

The lessons that we were supposed to learn from the crisis of 2008 have not been learned.

Instead, the lure of huge returns and big bonuses has caused a return to the exact same behavior that caused the crisis of 2008 in the first place.  The following is one example of this phenomenon from a recent article by Wolf Richter

The craziness on Wall Street, the reckless for-the-moment-only behavior that led to the Financial Crisis, is back.

This time it’s Citigroup that is once again concocting “synthetic” securities, like those that had wreaked havoc five years ago. And once again, it’s using them to shuffle off risks through the filters of Wall Street to people who might never know.

What bubbled to the surface is that Citigroup is selling synthetic securities that yield 13% to 15% annually—synthetic because they’re based on credit derivatives. Apparently, Citi has a bunch of shipping loans on its books, and it’s trying to protect itself against default. In return for succulent interest payments, investors will take on some of the risks of these loans.

Yes, the Dow hit another new all-time high today.  But the derivatives bubble that hangs over the global economy like a sword of Damocles could burst at literally any moment.  When it does, the damage is going to be incalculable.

In a previous article entitled “Why Is The World Economy Doomed? The Global Financial Pyramid Scheme By The Numbers“, I noted a couple of statistics that show why derivatives are such an enormous problem…

-$212,525,587,000,000 – According to the U.S. government, this is the notional value of the derivatives that are being held by the top 25 banks in the United States.  But those banks only have total assets of about 8.9 trillion dollars combined.  In other words, the exposure of our largest banks to derivatives outweighs their total assets by a ratio of about 24 to 1.

-$600,000,000,000,000 to $1,500,000,000,000,000 – The estimates of the total notional value of all global derivatives generally fall within this range.  At the high end of the range, the ratio of derivatives to global GDP is more than 21 to 1.

When the derivatives bubble finally bursts, where are we going to get the trillions upon trillions of dollars that will be needed to “fix” things this time?

And sadly, the reality is that we are quickly running out of time.

It is important to keep watching Europe.  As I noted the other day, the European banking system as a whole is leveraged about 26 to 1 at this point.  When Lehman Brothers finally collapsed, it was leveraged about 30 to 1.

And the economic crisis over in Europe just continues to get worse.  It was announced on Tuesday that the unemployment rate in the eurozone is at an all-time record high of 12 percent, and the latest manufacturing numbers show that manufacturing activity over in Europe is in the process of collapsing.

So don’t be fooled by the fact that the Dow keeps setting new all-time record highs.  This bubble of false hope will be very short-lived.

The unfortunate truth is that the global financial system is a complete and total mess, and at this point a collapse appears to be inevitable.

Gambling With Our Money - Photo by Antoine Taveneaux

35 Statistics About The Working Poor In America That Will Blow Your Mind

35 Statistics About The Working Poor In America That Will Blow Your MindIn America tonight, tens of millions of men and women will struggle to get to sleep because they are stressed out about not making enough money even though they are working as hard as they possibly can.  They are called “the working poor”, and their numbers are absolutely exploding.  As a recent Gallup poll showed, Americans are more concerned about the economy than they are about anything else.  But why are Americans so stressed out about our economic situation if things are supposedly getting better?  Well, the truth is that unemployment is not actually going down, and the real unemployment numbers are actually much worse than what is officially being reported by the government.  But unemployment is only part of the story.  Most American workers are still able to find jobs, but an increasing proportion of them are not able to make ends meet at the end of the month.  Our economy continues to bleed good paying middle class jobs, and to a large degree those jobs are being replaced by low income jobs.  Approximately one-fourth of all American workers make 10 dollars an hour or less at this point, and we see them all around us every day.  They flip our burgers, they cut our hair and they take our money at the supermarket.  In many homes, both parents are working multiple jobs, and yet when a child gets sick or a car breaks down they find that they don’t have enough money to pay the bill.  Many of these families have gone into tremendous amounts of debt in order to try to stay afloat, but once you get caught in a cycle of debt it can be incredibly difficult to break out of that.

So what is the solution?  Well, the easy answer would be that we need the U.S. economy to start producing more good paying jobs, but that is easier said than done.  Our big corporations continue to ship huge numbers of good paying manufacturing jobs out of the country, and millions of Americans have been forced to scramble to find whatever work is available.  Today, there are so many very talented American workers that are trapped in low wage work.  According to the Working Poor Families Project, “about one-fourth of adults in low-income working families were employed in just eight occupations, as cashiers, cooks, health aids, janitors, maids, retail salespersons, waiters and waitresses, or drivers.”  A lot of those people could do so much more for society, but they don’t have the opportunity.

Sadly, the percentage of low paying jobs in our economy continues to increase with each passing year, so this is a problem that is only going to get worse.  So don’t look down on the working poor.  The good paying job that you have right now could disappear at any time and you could end up joining their ranks very soon.

The following are 35 statistics about the working poor in America that will blow your mind…

#1 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either “poor” or “low income”.

#2 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 57 percent of all American children live in a home that is either “poor” or “low income”.

#3 Back in 2007, about 28 percent of all working families were considered to be among “the working poor”.  Today, that number is up to 32 percent even though our politicians tell us that the economy is supposedly recovering.

#4 Back in 2007, 21 million U.S. children lived in “working poor” homes.  Today, that number is up to 23.5 million.

#5 In Arkansas, Mississippi and New Mexico, more than 40 percent all of working families are considered to be “low income”.

#6 Families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

#7 Half of all American workers earn $505 or less per week.

#8 At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

#9 Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

#10 Median household income in the United States has fallen for four consecutive years.

#11 Median household income for families with children dropped by a whopping $6,300 between 2001 and 2011.

#12 The U.S. economy continues to trade good paying jobs for low paying jobs.  60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

#13 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#14 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.

#15 There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing.  That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

#16 Low income families spend about 8.6 percent of their incomes on gasoline.  Other families spend about 2.1 percent.

#17 In 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  Today, only 55.1 percent are covered by employment-based health insurance.

#18 According to one survey, 77 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time.

#19 Millions of working poor families in America end up taking on debt in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, but before too long they find themselves in a debt trap that they can never escape.  According to a recent article in the New York Times, the average debt burden for U.S. households that earn $20,000 a year or less “more than doubled to $26,000 between 2001 and 2010“.

#20 In 1989, the debt to income ratio of the average American family was about 58 percent.  Today it is up to 154 percent.

#21 According to the Economic Policy Institute, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans households on average have 288 times the amount of wealth that the average middle class American family does.

#22 In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

#23 According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.

#24 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have a net worth that is roughly equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans combined.

#25 Sadly, the bottom 60 percent of all Americans own just 2.3 percent of all the financial wealth in the United States.

#26 The average CEO now makes approximately 350 times as much as the average American worker makes.

#27 Corporate profits as a percentage of GDP are at an all-time high.  Meanwhile, wages as a percentage of GDP are near an all-time low.

#28 Today, 40 percent of all Americans have $500 or less in savings.

#29 The number of families in the United States living on 2 dollars a day or less more than doubled between 1996 and 2011.

#30 The number of Americans on food stamps has grown from 17 million in the year 2000 to more than 47 million today.

#31 Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps.  Today, about one out of every 6.5 Americans is on food stamps.

#32 More than one out of every four children in the United States is enrolled in the food stamp program.

#33 Incredibly, a higher percentage of children is living in poverty in America today than was the case back in 1975.

#34 If you can believe it, the federal government hands out money to 128 million Americans every single month.

#35 Federal spending on welfare has reached nearly a trillion dollars a year, and it is being projected that it will increase by another 80 percent over the next decade.

The Working Poor - Photo by Jml0519 at en.wikipedia

Where Does Money Come From? The Giant Federal Reserve Scam That Most Americans Do Not Understand

How is money created?  If you ask average people on the street this question, most of them have absolutely no idea.  This is rather odd, because we all use money constantly.  You would think that it would only be natural for all of us to know where it comes from.  So where does money come from?  A lot of people assume that the federal government creates our money, but that is not the case.  If the federal government could just print and spend more money whenever it wanted to, our national debt would be zero.  But instead, our national debt is now nearly 16 trillion dollars.  So why does our government (or any sovereign government for that matter) have to borrow money from anybody?  That is a very good question.  The truth is that in theory the U.S. government does not have to borrow a single penny from anyone.  But under the Federal Reserve system, the U.S. government has purposely allowed itself to be subjugated to a financial system in which it will be constantly borrowing larger and larger amounts of money.  In fact, this is how it works in the vast majority of the countries on the planet at this point.  As you will see, this kind of system is not sustainable and the structural problems caused by such a system are at the very heart of our debt problems today.

So where does money come from?  In the United States, it comes from the Federal Reserve.

When the U.S. government decides that it wants to spend another billion dollars that it does not have, it does not print up a billion dollars.

Rather, the U.S. government creates a bunch of U.S. Treasury bonds (debt) and takes them over to the Federal Reserve.

The Federal Reserve creates a billion dollars out of thin air and exchanges them for the U.S. Treasury bonds.

So why does the U.S. government go to all this trouble?  Why doesn’t the U.S. government create the money itself?

Those are very good questions.

One of the primary reasons why our system is structured this way is so that wealthy people can get even wealthier by lending money to the U.S. government and other national governments.

For example, last year the U.S. government spent more than 454 billion dollars just on interest on the national debt.

Over the centuries, the ultra-wealthy have found lending to national governments to be a very, very profitable enterprise.

The U.S. Treasury bonds that the Federal Reserve receives in exchange for the money it has created out of nothing are auctioned off through the Federal Reserve system.

But wait.

There is a problem.

Because the U.S. government must pay interest on the Treasury bonds, the amount of debt that has been created by this transaction is greater than the amount of money that has been created.

So where will the U.S. government get the money to pay that debt?

Well, the theory is that we can get money to circulate through the economy really, really fast and tax it at a high enough rate that the government will be able to collect enough taxes to pay the debt.

But that never actually happens, does it?

And the creators of the Federal Reserve understood this as well.  They understood that the U.S. government would not have enough money to both run the government and service the national debt.  They knew that the U.S. government would have to keep borrowing even more money in an attempt to keep up with the game.

That is why I call the Federal Reserve a perpetual debt machine.  The Federal Reserve was created to trap the U.S. government in an endlessly expanding debt spiral from which there is no escape.

And the Federal Reserve is doing a great job at what it was designed to do.  Today, the U.S. national debt is more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.

Another way that money comes into existence in our economy is through the process of fractional reserve banking.

I originally pulled the following simplified explanation of fractional reserve banking off of the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, but it has been pulled down since then.  But I still think it is helpful in understanding the basics of how fractional reserve banking works….

If the reserve requirement is 10%, for example, a bank that receives a $100 deposit may lend out $90 of that deposit. If the borrower then writes a check to someone who deposits the $90, the bank receiving that deposit can lend out $81. As the process continues, the banking system can expand the initial deposit of $100 into a maximum of $1,000 of money ($100+$90+81+$72.90+…=$1,000).”

When you put your money into the bank, it does not say there.  The bank only keeps a relatively small amount of money sitting around to satisfy the withdrawal demands of account holders.  If all of us went down to the banks right now and demanded our money, that would create a major problem.

If I put 100 dollars into the bank and the bank lends out 90 of those dollars to you, now it looks like there are 190 dollars floating around.  I have “100 dollars” in my bank account and you have “90 dollars” that you just borrowed.

The new debt that you have taken on (90 dollars) has “created” more money.  But of course you are going to end up paying back more than 90 dollars to the bank, so more debt has been created than the amount of money that has been created.

And that is one of the big problems with our financial system.  It is designed so that the amount of debt and the amount of money are supposed to be perpetually expanding, and the amount of debt created is always greater than the amount of money that is created.

So is it any wonder that our society is swamped with nearly 55 trillion dollars of total debt at this point?

A debt-based financial system is unsustainable by nature because it will always create debt bubbles that will inevitably burst.

Are you starting to see why so many Americans are saying that we need to abolish the Federal Reserve system?

Our founding fathers never intended for our financial system to work this way.

According to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Congress is supposed to have the authority to “coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures”.

So why has this authority been given to a private institution that is dominated by the big Wall Street banks and that has actually argued in court that it is “not an agency” of the federal government?

Thomas Jefferson once said that if he could add just one more amendment to the U.S. Constitution it would be a ban on all government borrowing….

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.

But instead, we have become enslaved to a system where government borrowing actually creates our money.

The borrower is the servant of the lender, and we have allowed our government to enslave us to the tune of nearly 16 trillion dollars.

There are alternatives to this system.  Things do not have to work this way.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of our politicians consider the Federal Reserve to be good for America and steadfastly refuse to do anything to change the status quo.

So if you are waiting for “solutions” to these problems on the national level you are going to be waiting for a very long time.

The debt problems that the United States and Europe are experiencing did not come into existence by accident.  They are the result of fundamental structural problems with the financial system.

A debt-based financial system is always going to fail in the long run.  Unfortunately, most Americans still do not understand this and so we will all get to suffer the consequences.

LOL – This Stock Market Rally Is For Suckers

Hey, have you heard?  The stock market is absolutely soaring right now.  The Dow was up 330 points on Monday, and overall the Dow has risen by more than 10 percent since October 3rd.  So should we all be throwing our money into the stock market in order to take advantage of this tremendous rally?  Well, if you actually believe that the sovereign debt crisis has passed and that we are no longer on the verge of a massive worldwide financial crisis then I have a bridge that I would like to sell you.  The stock market may be soaring, but absolutely nothing has been solved.  The truth is that this stock market rally is for suckers.  The primary reason why stocks rose today was because German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised that they would reveal a “comprehensive response” to the European debt crisis by the end of this month.  When pressed for specifics, Sarkozy stated that “now is not the moment to go into the details.”  So do global financial markets really have a legitimate reason to be giddy about the super secret plan cooked up by Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, or are Merkel and Sarkozy just blowing a bunch of smoke?

Merkel and Sarkozy have made bold promises in the past, but nothing ever got fixed.

So why should we believe them this time?

If they have real solutions, why don’t they just reveal them now?

Why keep us in suspense?

By making these vague promises, Merkel and Sarkozy certainly did give a boost to global financial markets, but they also seriously raised expectations.

Now many in the financial world are expecting something truly significant from Merkel and Sarkozy.  For example, CNN has quoted economist Scott Brown as saying the following about the announcement by Merkel and Sarkozy….

“The Europe debt crisis cloud has been hanging over the market for a year-and-a-half now,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James. “The risks and worries have been intensifying over the last couple of weeks, but after this weekend, the market is expecting something big and concrete that will put the crisis behind us.”

So can Merkel and Sarkozy deliver something big?

Of course not.

Merkel has already gotten all of the bailout money that she is going to get out of the Germans.  The political will for more bailouts is totally gone in Germany, and many of Germany’s top leaders have expressed this in no uncertain terms.

For example, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is publicly admitting that Germany will not be able to contribute any more money to the European bailout fund.

Also, the leader of Bavaria’s Social Christians, Horst Seehofer, said after the recent vote on the Greek bailout package that his party would go “this far, and no further“.

Recent opinion polls in Germany make it abundantly clear that the German people are overwhelmingly opposed to more bailouts.  Squeezing more money out of Germany simply is not going to happen, and that means that squeezing more money out of the rest of Europe is simply not going to happen.

In a recent editorial, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard described the current political situation in Europe in this manner….

Repeat after me:

THERE WILL BE NO FISCAL UNION.

THERE WILL BE NO EUROBONDS.

THERE WILL BE NO DEBT POOL.

THERE WILL BE NO EU TREASURY.

THERE WILL BE NO FISCAL TRANSFERS IN PERPETUITY.

THERE WILL BE A STABILITY UNION – OR NO MONETARY UNION.

Get used to it. This is the political reality of Europe, since nothing of importance can be done without Germany. All else is wishful thinking, clutching at straws, and evasion. If this means the euro will shed some members or blow apart – as it almost certainly does – then the rest of the world must prepare for the day.

So exactly what “big” solution do Merkel and Sarkozy have up their sleeves that does not involve more money?

Can they really produce the goods or are they just blowing smoke?

Perhaps global financial markets should be focusing on what we can see rather than on what we cannot see.

For example, the first major bank bailout in Europe has now happened.  Dexia is being bailed out, and it is going to cost more than 100 billion dollars.

The funny thing is that Dexia actually passed the banking stress test that was conducted a few months ago.

What does that say about all of the major European banks that did not pass the stress test?

Also, perhaps global financial markets should focus on all of the credit ratings that are being downgraded all over Europe.

Lately, we have seen a cascade of credit rating downgrades.

For example, Moody’s slashed Italy’s credit rating by three levels last Tuesday, and the other day S&P slashed the credit ratings of seven different major Italian banks.

The problems in Europe continue to grow worse, and yet the stock market is soaring.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?

If Greece defaults, it is going to be a major disaster.

If Italy or Spain defaults, it is going to be financial armageddon.

The world truly is on the verge of a massive financial crisis.  If you don’t want to believe me, perhaps you might believe some of the top financial officials in the world….

*Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King: “This is the most serious financial crisis we’ve seen at least since the 1930s, if not ever”

*U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner recently stated that if something is not done quickly, Europe faces “cascading default, bank runs and catastrophic risk.”

*IMF advisor Robert Shapiro: “If they can not address [the financial crisis] in a credible way I believe within perhaps 2 to 3 weeks we will have a meltdown in sovereign debt which will produce a meltdown across the European banking system. We are not just talking about a relatively small Belgian bank, we are talking about the largest banks in the world, the largest banks in Germany, the largest banks in France, that will spread to the United Kingdom, it will spread everywhere because the global financial system is so interconnected.”

For many more shocking quotes about how bad things have gotten in Europe, just check out this article.

Merkel and Sarkozy are holding really weak cards but they have chosen to raise the stakes anyway.

Their bluff may calm financial markets for a month or two, but in the end they will not be able to stop what is coming.

A great financial collapse is coming to Europe.

Try to get out of the way of the coming avalanche while you still can.

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