We continue to get more evidence that the U.S. economy has entered a major downturn. Just last week, I wrote about how U.S. GDP growth numbers have been declining for three quarters in a row, and previously I wrote about how corporate defaults have surged to their highest level since the last financial crisis. Well, now we are getting some very depressing numbers from the rail industry. As you will see below, U.S. rail traffic was down more than 11 percent from a year ago in April. That is an absolutely catastrophic number, and the U.S. rail industry is feeling an enormous amount of pain right now. This also tells us that “the real economy” is really slowing down, because less stuff is being shipped by rail all over the nation.
One of the economic commentators that I have really come to respect is Wolf Richter of WolfStreet.com. He has a really sharp eye for what is really going on in the economy and in the financial world, and I find myself quoting him more and more as time goes by. If you have not checked out his site yet, I very much encourage you to do so.
On Wednesday, he posted a very alarming article about what is happening to our rail industry. The kinds of numbers that we have been seeing recently are the kinds of numbers that we would expect if an economic depression was starting. The following is an excerpt from that article…
Total US rail traffic in April plunged 11.8% from a year ago, the Association of American Railroads reported today. Carloads of bulk commodities such as coal, oil, grains, and chemicals plummeted 16.1% to 944,339 units.
The coal industry is in a horrible condition and cannot compete with US natural gas at current prices. Coal-fired power plants are being retired. Demand for steam coal is plunging. Major US coal miners – even the largest one – are now bankrupt. So in April, carloads of coal plummeted 40% from the already beaten-down levels a year ago.
Because rail traffic is down so dramatically, many operators have large numbers of engines that are just sitting around collecting dust. In his article, Wolf Richter shared photographs from Google Earth that show some of the 292 Union Pacific engines that are sitting in the middle of the Arizona desert doing absolutely nothing. The following is one of those photographs…
As Wolf Richter pointed out, it costs a lot of money for these engines to just sit there doing nothing…
These engines are expensive pieces of equipment. When they just sit there, not pulling trains, they become “overcapacity,” and they get very expensive. Then there are engineers and other personnel who suddenly become unproductive. Some of them have already been laid off or are getting laid off.
All over the world, similar numbers are coming in. For example, the Baltic Dry Index fell 30 more points on Wednesday after falling 21 on Tuesday. Global trade is really, really slowing down during the early portion of 2016. What this means on a practical level is that a lot less stuff is being bought, sold and shipped around the planet.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for authorities to deny that a new global recession has begun, and at this moment we are only in the very early chapters of this new crisis.
Another thing that I watch very closely is the velocity of money. When an economy is healthy, people feel pretty good about things and money tends to circulate fairly rapidly. For example, I may buy something from you, then you may buy something from someone else, etc.
But when times get tough, people tend to hold on to their money more tightly, and that is why the velocity of money goes down when recessions hit. In the chart below, the shaded areas represent recessions, and you can see that the velocity of money has declined during every single recession in the post-World War II era…
During the last recession, the velocity of money declined precipitously, and that makes perfect sense. But then a funny thing happened. There was a slight bump up once the recession was over, but then it turned down again and it has kept going down ever since.
In fact, the velocity of money has now dropped to an all-time low. The velocity of M2 just recently dipped below 1.5 for the first time ever.
This is not a sign of an “economic recovery”. What this tells us is that our economy is very, very sick.
And we can see evidence of this sickness all around us. For instance, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that homelessness in Los Angeles increased by 11 percent last year, and this marked the fourth year in a row that homelessness in the city has increased…
Homelessness rose 11% in the city of Los Angeles and 5.7% in the county last year despite an intensive federal push that slashed the county ranks of homeless veterans by nearly a third, according to a report released Wednesday.
The increase marks the fourth consecutive year of rising homelessness in L.A., as local officials struggle to identify funding for billion-dollar plans they approved to solve the nation’s most intractable homeless problem.
Let us also not forget that about half the country is basically flat broke at this point.
Just recently, the Federal Reserve found that 47 percent of all Americans could not pay an unexpected $400 emergency room bill without selling something or borrowing the money from somewhere.
With numbers such as these being reported, how in the world can anyone possibly claim that the U.S. economy is in good shape?
It boggles the mind, and yet there are people out there that would actually have you believe that everything is just fine.
The current occupant of the White House is one of them.
With each passing month, the real economy is getting even worse. We may not have slipped into a full-blown economic depression just yet, but it is coming.
For now, let us be thankful for whatever remains of our debt-fueled prosperity, because we don’t deserve the massively inflated standard of living that we have been enjoying.
We have been consuming far more than we produce for decades, but it won’t last for much longer. And when those days are gone for good, we will mourn them bitterly.
Is the strongest and most powerful nation on the planet headed for an apocalypse which will bring it to its knees? We live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable, and apocalyptic themes have become very common in books, movies, television shows and video games. It is almost as if there is an unconscious understanding on a societal level that something very big and very bad is coming, even if the vast majority of the population cannot specifically identify what that is going to be. Last week, the Global Challenges Foundation released a new report entitled “Global Catastrophic Risks 2016” in which they discussed various apocalyptic events that they believe could wipe out more than 10 percent of the population of our planet, and they warned that these types of events “are more likely than we intuitively think”…
Sebastian Farquhar, director at the Global Priorities Project, told the Press Association: “There are some things that are on the horizon, things that probably won’t happen in any one year but could happen, which could completely reshape our world and do so in a really devastating and disastrous way.
“History teaches us that many of these things are more likely than we intuitively think. Many of these risks are changing and growing as technologies change and grow and reshape our world. But there are also things we can do about the risks.”
According to this new report, we are five times more likely to die from the various apocalyptic catastrophes that they analyzed than we are from a car accident.
In this article, I want to discuss some of the most important threats that they analyzed, in addition to adding some of my own to the list. But first I want to mention that I do not believe that the Global Challenges Foundation is correct to identify climate change as one of the most significant catastrophic threats that humanity is facing. Our climate has always been changing, and I do believe that we will see wild climate shifts in the years ahead. However, human activity plays an exceedingly small role in all of this, and there is not very much that we can do to prevent what is going to happen either. Most of the climate change that we are going to see in our future is going to be as a result of other catastrophes in this list, so I have not included it as a separate item.
With that being said, let’s quickly examine some of the potential threats identified by the Global Challenges Foundation…
In various locations around the globe, there are gigantic supervolcanoes which could dramatically change the course of human history in a single moment by erupting. In the United States, the Yellowstone supervolcano is becoming increasingly active, and a full-blown eruption could potentially be up to 2,000 times more powerful than the eruption of Mount St. Helens back in 1980. As I mentioned the other day, major metropolitan areas such as Salt Lake City and Denver would be essentially destroyed, food production in this country would be virtually wiped out, and a “volcanic winter” would cool global temperatures by up to 20 degrees for up to several years.
Asteroids And Comets
This is something that the Obama administration is actually quite concerned about. During his tenure, NASA has established a “Planetary Defense Coordination Office” that is in charge of tracking giant space rocks, and NASA is working to develop a method to destroy incoming asteroids using nuclear weapons.
Scientists admit that they only know about a small fraction of the near-Earth objects that are actually out there, and we get hit “by surprise” all the time. If we were to get hit at just the right place by a very large object, like say just off the east coast of the United States, the consequences would almost be too horrible for words.
Today, 39 percent of all Americans live in counties that directly border a shoreline, and most of those people are along the east coast. According to the University of California at Santa Cruz website, if a huge asteroid did slam into the Atlantic Ocean, it could potentially produce a 400 foot high tsunami that would sweep inland for many, many miles and kill millions upon millions of Americans in the process.
The flu pandemic of 1918 killed approximately 50,000,000 people worldwide, and scientists assure us that it will happen again one day.
Yes, we have come a long way in fighting disease, but as we learned during the recent Ebola outbreak, a really nasty virus can grip the entire world with fear in a very short period of time.
This is probably even a bigger threat than natural pandemics, because now we have the technology to genetically alter naturally occurring diseases and make them even stronger.
Whether it is on purpose or by accident, it is only a matter of time before a genetically-modified superbug gets released into the general population, and when that day arrives it may make all previous pandemics look like a Sunday picnic.
Could someday entities that we have created turn on us and start killing us?
Some might refer to this as “the Terminator scenario”, and it is becoming more realistic with each passing day as our technological capabilities continue to increase at an exponential rate.
The human race now has the capability to purposely modify the weather, and this means that we also have the capability to do a tremendous amount of damage.
Have you ever looked up and noticed long white trails criss-crossing the sky? This is being done on purpose, and when they spray chemicals into our atmosphere it could have some very severe long-term consequences that the authorities may not be anticipating.
Back during the Cold War, most Americans would have probably named this as the number one catastrophic threat facing America, but these days most people tend to believe that “the Cold War” is over.
So nobody has really objected while the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal has been reduced by about 95 percent, and Barack Obama insists that he would like to reduce it even further.
Our relationship with Russia has already gone down the tubes, and our relationship with China is rapidly deteriorating. In fact, China just rejected a request for the USS John C. Stennis to make a routine port call at Hong Kong. Most Americans assume that a war with either one of them is impossible, but the truth is that we may find ourselves in a conflict with both of them at the same time eventually.
The catastrophic threats above were ones that were mentioned in the report from the Global Challenges Foundation. Below are some additional items that I would like to add to the list…
It isn’t just ISIS that we need to be concerned about. Islamic terror is exploding all over the planet, and according to Wikipedia there have already been 95 such attacks globally so far in 2016.
Up until now, they have been killing us with guns and bombs, but what happens when they inevitably get their hands on chemical, biological or nuclear weapons?
Terror attacks using weapons of mass destruction could literally turn our society completely upside down virtually overnight, and it is only a matter of time until this starts happening.
Power Grid Failure
Someday you may wake up and discover that the power grid has totally failed. Just try to imagine a world without any lights, cell phones, computers, televisions, ATMs, heating and cooling systems, credit card readers, gas pumps, cash registers, refrigerators or hospital equipment. A massive electromagnetic pulse, either from the sun or as the result of a nuclear blast, could instantly plunge society back into the 1800s.
The EMP Commission spent years studying this, and they told Congress back in 20o8 that up to 90 percent of the U.S. population could be dead within one year of such an event due to starvation, disease and the breakdown of society. So this is a threat that people better start taking seriously.
World War III will not be fought like previous wars, and the Internet is one area where we are particularly vulnerable. The Chinese, the Russians and the North Koreans have all been working very hard to develop their cyberwarfare capabilities, and I was recently told by someone that has deep connections inside the U.S. intelligence community that our power grid could be taken down with just the push of a button. That is how easy it would be.
With each passing year, we are all becoming more and more dependent on the Internet. So what would our lives be like if it was suddenly gone?
That is something to think about.
If you want to watch society melt down right in front of your eyes, just take away all of the goodies. On The Economic Collapse Blog I have written more than a million words about the coming economic problems in this country. We got a very small taste of what is approaching in 2008 and 2009, and yet most people do not seem to have taken that warning seriously. Since that time, our long-term economic and financial problems have grown far more dire, and now the early chapters of a new economic crisis are unfolding right in front of our eyes, and yet still most people don’t seem to be alarmed.
If you want to see how devastating an economic collapse can be on a nation, just pick up a history book and start reading about the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unfortunately, what we are heading for is going to be a whole lot worse than that.
Civil Unrest & Martial Law
As the economy collapses and other things on this list start happening, people are going to be absolutely freaking out. A whole host of polls and surveys have shown that anger and frustration have been building up to unprecedented levels in this country, and at some point there is going to be a huge explosion.
Desperate people do desperate things, and we got small previews of what is coming in Ferguson and in Baltimore. Violent crime rates are already rising in our major cities, and many among the elite are getting out while the getting is good. In fact, 3,000 millionaires left the city of Chicago last year alone.
Of course whenever civil unrest erupts, the government responds by trying to regain control, and eventually things are going to get so bad in this nation that we will start to see martial law imposed in various areas. We saw a little bit of this in Ferguson and in Baltimore, but that was nothing compared to what we will eventually experience.
Personally, I believe that those of us that are fortunate enough to live long enough will witness historic earthquakes in all of those areas, and scientists assure us that all three zones are way overdue for major seismic events.
Even if just one of the catastrophic events that I have discussed above were to take place, it would completely change society.
Unfortunately, I believe that we are entering an era of history in which a “perfect storm” that consists of a confluence of these catastrophic events will shake this nation to the core.
So what do you think?
Do you agree or disagree?
Please feel free to add your voice to the discussion by posting a comment below…
*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*
Corporate revenues in the United States have been falling for quite some time, but now some of the biggest companies in the entire nation are reporting extremely disappointing results. On Tuesday, Apple shocked the financial world by reporting that revenue for the first quarter had fallen 7.4 billion dollars compared to the same quarter last year. That is an astounding plunge, and it represents the very first year-over-year quarterly sales decline that Apple has experienced since 2003. Analysts were anticipating some sort of drop, but nothing like this. And of course last week we learned that Google and Microsoft also missed revenue and earnings projections for the first quarter of 2016. The economic crisis that began during the second half of 2015 is really starting to take hold, and even our largest tech companies are now feeling the pain.
This wasn’t supposed to happen to Apple. No matter what else has been going on with the U.S. economy, Apple has always been unshakeable. Even during the last recession we never saw a year-over-year decline like this…
Apple today announced financial results for the second fiscal quarter (first calendar quarter) of 2016. For the quarter, Apple posted revenue of $50.6 billion and net quarterly profit of $10.5 billion, or $1.90 per diluted share, compared to revenue of $58 billion and net quarterly profit of $13.6 billion, or $2.33 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. As expected, the year-over-year decline in quarterly revenue was the first for Apple since 2003.
I think that this announcement by Apple is waking a lot of people up. The global economic slowdown is real, and we can see this in iPhone sales. During the first quarter, Apple sold 16 percent fewer iPhones than it did during the same quarter in 2015. This is the very first year-over-year quarterly sales decline for the iPhone ever. Here are some of the specific sales figures from the Apple announcement…
Apple sold 51.1 million iPhones during the quarter, down from 61.2 million a year earlier, while Mac sales were 4.03 million units, down from from 4.56 million units in the year-ago quarter. iPad sales were also down once again, falling to 10.25 million from 12.6 million.
Once these numbers hit the wires, shares of Apple immediately began to plummet during after-hours trading. In fact, USA Today is reporting that Apple has already lost 43 billion dollars in market value since the annoucement…
Shares of Apple are getting hit roughly 8% in after-hours trading, tumbling to $96.67. They closed in regular trading at $104.35, or down 0.7%, putting them down 0.9% for the year. The downward move in after-hours trading means the company shed $43 billion in market value based on after-hours trading.
Meanwhile, shares of Twitter are crashing in after-hours trading after the social media giant also announced very disappointing results. The stock has now dripped below 16 dollars a share, and the company continues to lose tremendous amounts of money…
For all its other travails, Twitter is unprofitable. It narrowed its loss but still recorded a loss of $79.7 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with a loss of $162.4 million, or 25 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.
Of course it isn’t just the tech giants that are troubled these days.
On Tuesday we learned that same-store sales for Chipotle declined by a whopping 29.7 percent during the first quarter, and appliance manufacturer Whirlpool has seen sales fall all over the planet…
Whirlpool, the world’s biggest appliance manufacturer, has become the poster child for the deep challenges facing multinational companies these days.
– Latin American sales plunged 22%.
– Revenue fell 8% in Europe, Middle East and Africa.
– Asia sales dipped 2%.
When is it finally going to sink in for most people? The global economy is slowing down significantly, and the next global economic crisis is already here.
Of course the oil companies are feeling more pain than anyone else. According to CNN, the crash in the price of oil has cost the 40 largest publicly-traded U.S. oil producers 67 billion dollars…
American oil companies are drowning in a sea of red ink.
The crash in crude oil prices caused a stunning $67 billion in combined losses by 40 publicly-traded U.S. oil producers last year, according Energy Information Administration research. And the bleeding is expected to continue at least early this year for many.
The losses surpassed $1 billion each from struggling oil companies like EOG Resources (EOG), Devon Energy (DVN) and Linn Energy (LINE) as well as SandRidge Energy (SD), the shale oil driller that recently admitted it’s exploring a bankruptcy filing.
That is an astounding amount of money.
These days we throw around terms like “millions” and “billions” so much that they almost lose their meaning.
But this is real money that we are talking about here.
You’ve got to remember that all of these governments and central banks all around the world have driven interest rates not just to zero, but to negative levels in some cases… and they are simultaneously printing up trillions of currency units. And even while they are desperately doing that the economy is falling apart in lots of different ways.
…They’ve created a super-bubble in bonds, a bubble in stocks, and meanwhile commodities have collapsed and are below production costs in many cases.
…The economy is going to be very, very bad… It’s the next stage of what I call the Greater Depression.
Whether you want to call it a “Great Depression”, a “Greater Depression” or “The Greatest Depression”, the truth is that we are heading into a period of time that will be unlike anything any of us have ever experienced before.
The greatest debt bubble in the history of the planet is starting to implode, and this time the central bankers and the politicians are not going to be able to put the pieces back together again.
But just like in 2008, the vast majority of the population will not recognize the warning signs until it is way too late.
*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*
Mainstream news outlets are already starting to use the phrase “economic collapse” to describe what is going on in some areas of our world right now. For many Americans this may seem a bit strange, but the truth is that the worldwide economic slowdown that began during the second half of last year is starting to get a lot worse. In this article, we are going to examine evidence of this from South America, Europe, Asia and North America. Once we are done, it should be obvious that there is absolutely no reason to be optimistic about the direction of the global economy right now. The warnings of so many prominent experts are now becoming a reality, and what we have witnessed so far are just the early chapters of a crushing economic crisis that will affect every man, woman and child in the entire world.
Let’s start with Brazil. It has the 7th largest economy on the entire planet, and it is already enduring its worst recession in 25 years. In fact, at the end of last year Goldman Sachs said that what was going on down there was actually a “depression“.
But now the crisis in Brazil has escalated significantly.
I want to share with you an excerpt from a recent article entitled “Brazil: Economic collapse worse than feared“. I know, that title sounds like it comes directly from The Economic Collapse Blog, but I didn’t write it.
Amid political chaos, Brazil’s economic collapse is worse than its government once believed.
In the midst of rising calls to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s central bank announced Thursday that it now expects the country’s economy to shrink 3.5% this year.
That’s worse than the central bank’s previous estimate for a 1.9% contraction. The darker forecast matches what the International Monetary Fund projected for Brazil — Latin America’s largest country — and what many independent economists have suspected.
It is one thing for Michael Snyder to tell you that Brazil is in the midst of “economic collapse”, but it is another thing entirely for CNN to say it.
Meanwhile, things are actually much worse in Venezuela than they are in Brazil. Food and basic supplies are in short supply, the inflation rate has hit 720 percent, and crime is completely out of control.
The only question now is whether Venezuela’s government or economy will completely collapse first.
The key word there is “completely.” Both are well into their death throes. Indeed, Venezuela’s ruling party just lost congressional elections that gave the opposition a veto-proof majority, and it’s hard to see that getting any better for them any time soon — or ever.
Incumbents, after all, don’t tend to do too well when, according to the International Monetary Fund, their economy shrinks 10 percent one year, an additional 6 percent the next, and inflation explodes to 720 percent. It’s no wonder, then, that markets expect Venezuela to default on its debt in the very near future. The country is basically bankrupt.
Once again we see a very respected mainstream publication using the phrase “economic collapse” to describe what is happening in South America.
You can find some stunning video of the “economic Armageddon” that is taking place in Venezuela right here. I would encourage you to watch that video, because what is happening down there will eventually be happening here.
Finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan has called a meeting in Rome on Monday with executives from Italy’s largest financial institutions to agree final details of a “last resort” bailout plan.
Yet on the eve of that gathering, concerns remain as to whether the plan will be sufficient to ringfence the weakest of Italy’s large banks, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, from contagion, according to people involved in the talks.
Italian bank shares have lost almost half their value so far this year amid investor worries over a €360bn pile of non-performing loans — equivalent to about a fifth of GDP. Lenders’ profitability has been hit by a crippling three-year recession.
As Italy descends into financial chaos, the rest of the continent better be paying attention.
Do you remember how hard it was for the rest of Europe to rescue Greece?
Well, Greece has the 44th largest economy on the planet.
Italy has the 8th.
It would be hard to overstate the seriousness of what is going on over in Europe, and it is not just Italy we are talking about. All over the continent major banks are in deep trouble, and the chairman of France’s second largest retail bank recently told reporters that “I am much more worried than I was in 2009“.
And there is very good reason for concern. On Sunday, we learned that a major “bail-in” had just been announced for one of Austria’s most prominent banks. The following comes from Zero Hedge…
And then today, following a decision by the Austrian Banking Regulator, the Finanzmarktaufsicht or Financial Market Authority, Austria officially became the first European country to use a new law under the framework imposed by Bank the European Recovery and Resolution Directive to share losses of a failed bank with senior creditors as it slashed the value of debt owed by Heta Asset Resolution AG.
Today, the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA) in its function as the resolution authority pursuant to the Bank Recovery and Resolution Act (BaSAG – Bundesgesetz über die Sanierung und Abwicklung von Banken) has issued the key features for the further steps for the resolution of HETA ASSET RESOLUTION AG. The most significant measures are:
a 100% bail-in for all subordinated liabilities,
a 53.98% bail-in, resulting in a 46.02% quota, for all eligible preferential liabilities,
the cancellation of all interest payments from 01.03.2015, when HETA was placed into resolution pursuant to BaSAG,
as well as a harmonisation of the maturities of all eligible liabilities to 31.12.2023.
According to the current resolution plan for HETA, the wind-down process should be concluded by 2020, although the repayment of all claims as well as the legally binding conclusion of all currently outstanding legal disputes will realistically only be concluded by the end of 2023. Only at that point will it be possible to finally distribute the assets and to liquidate the company.
The dominoes are starting to fall in Europe, and I would expect even bigger announcements in the weeks and months to come.
Over in Asia, economic chaos is beginning to prevail as well.
In China, the stock market is already down more than 40 percent from the peak, Chinese exports were down 25.4 percent on a year over year basis in February, and Chinese economic numbers overall have not been this poor since the depths of the last global recession.
Here in the United States, we haven’t been hit quite as hard as the rest of the world just yet, but there are lots of very disturbing warning signs all around us.
At the end of last week, we learned that it is being projected that U.S. GDP will have grown by just 0.1 or 0.2 percent during the first quarter of 2016. And on Monday corporate earnings reporting season begins, and it is expected to be a very, very bad one. The following comes from Business Insider…
We are about to get confirmation that earnings growth for America’s biggest companies was negative in the first quarter, compared to the same period a year ago.
When aluminum giant Alcoa releases its results on Monday, it will mark the unofficial start of the heaviest reporting season for S&P 500 companies.
The final scoreboard is expected to show a 9.1% earnings drop for the quarter, according to FactSet senior earnings analyst John Butters.
If these projections turn out to be accurate, it will be the fourth quarter in a row of earnings declines. This is something that we never see outside of a recession.
Of course I am just another voice in the crowd when it comes to predicting that the U.S. economy is headed for rough times. For example, just check out what Societe Generale economist Albert Edwards is saying…
A tidal wave is coming to the US economy, according to Albert Edwards, and when it crashes it’s going to throw the economy into recession.
…the profit recession facing American corporations is going to lead to a collapse in corporate credit.
“Despite risk assets enjoying a few weeks in the sun our fail-safe recession indicator has stopped flashing amber and turned to red”
Whole economy profits never normally fall this deeply without a recession unfolding. And with the US corporate sector up to its eyes in debt, the one asset class to be avoided — even more so than the ridiculously overvalued equity market — is US corporate debt. The economy will surely be swept away by a tidal wave of corporate default.
As you can see, it isn’t just one nation or one region of the world that we need to be concerned about.
Economic chaos is erupting literally all over the planet, and global leaders are starting to panic.
Unfortunately, they have had seven years to try to fix things since the last global recession, and they didn’t get the job done. Anyone that believes that by some miracle they will be able to pull us out of the fire this time and that everything will somehow be okay is simply engaged in wishful thinking.
*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*
Ten years ago, a major Hollywood film entitled “Idiocracy” was released, and it was an excellent metaphor for what would happen to America over the course of the next decade. In the movie, an “average American” wakes up 500 years in the future only to discover that he is the most intelligent person by far in the “dumbed down” society that he suddenly finds himself in. Sadly, I truly believe that if people of average intellect from the 1950s and 1960s were transported to 2016, they would likely be considered mental giants compared to the rest of us. We have a country where criminals are being paid $1000 a month not to shoot people, and the highest paid public employee in more than half the states is a football coach. Hardly anyone takes time to read a book anymore, and yet the average American spends 302 minutes a day watching television. 75 percent of our young adults cannot find Israel on a map of the Middle East, but they sure know how to find smut on the Internet. It may be hard to believe, but there are more than 4 million adult websites on the Internet today, and they get more traffic than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.
What in the world has happened to us? How is it possible that we have become so stupid? According to a brand new report that was recently released, almost 10 percent of our college graduates believe that Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court…
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni publishes occasional reports on what college students know.
Nearly 10 percent of the college graduates surveyed thought Judith Sheindlin, TV’s “Judge Judy,” is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Less than 20 percent of the college graduates knew the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation. More than a quarter of the college graduates did not know Franklin D. Roosevelt was president during World War II; one-third did not know he was the president who spearheaded the New Deal.
It can be tempting to laugh at numbers like these until you realize that survey after survey has come up with similar results.
When NEWSWEEK recently asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn’t name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar.
*Only 43 percent of all U.S. high school students knew that the Civil War was fought some time between 1850 and 1900.
*More than a quarter of all U.S. high school students thought that Christopher Columbus made his famous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean after the year 1750.
*Approximately a third of all U.S. high school students did not know that the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
*Only 60 percent of all U.S. students knew that World War I was fought some time between 1900 and 1950.
Of course survey results can be skewed, and much hinges on how the questions are asked.
However, even studies that are scientifically conducted confirm how stupid America has become. In fact, a report from the Educational Testing Service found that Americans are falling way behind much of the rest of the industrialized world. The following comes from CBS News…
Americans born after 1980 are lagging their peers in countries ranging from Australia to Estonia, according to a new report from researchers at the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The study looked at scores for literacy and numeracy from a test called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, which tested the abilities of people in 22 countries.
The results are sobering, with dire implications for America. It hints that students may be falling behind not only in their early educational years but at the college level. Even though more Americans between the ages of 20 to 34 are achieving higher levels of education, they’re still falling behind their cohorts in other countries. In Japan, Finland and the Netherlands, young adults with only a high school degree scored on par with American Millennials holding four-year college degrees, the report said.
Out of 22 countries that were part of the study, the Educational Testing Service found that Americans were dead last in tech proficiency, dead last in numeracy and only two countries performed worse than us when it came to literacy proficiency…
Half of American Millennials score below the minimum standard of literacy proficiency. Only two countries scored worse by that measure: Italy (60 percent) and Spain (59 percent). The results were even worse for numeracy, with almost two-thirds of American Millennials failing to meet the minimum standard for understanding and working with numbers. That placed U.S. Millennials dead last for numeracy among the study’s 22 developed countries.
So why has this happened?
Why have we become such an extremely stupid nation?
Well, at least a portion of the blame must be directed at our system of education. The following is an excerpt from an article written by reporter Mark Morford. In this article, he shared how one of his friends which had served for a very long time as a high school teacher in Oakland, California was considering moving out of the country when he retired due to the relentless “dumb-ification of the American brain”…
It’s gotten so bad that, as my friend nears retirement, he says he is very seriously considering moving out of the country so as to escape what he sees will be the surefire collapse of functioning American society in the next handful of years due to the absolutely irrefutable destruction, the shocking — and nearly hopeless — dumb-ification of the American brain. It is just that bad.
Now, you may think he’s merely a curmudgeon, a tired old teacher who stopped caring long ago. Not true. Teaching is his life. He says he loves his students, loves education and learning and watching young minds awaken. Problem is, he is seeing much less of it.
And of course things don’t get much better when it comes to our college students. In a previous article, I shared some statistics from USA Today about the rapidly declining state of college education in the United States…
-“After two years in college, 45% of students showed no significant gains in learning; after four years, 36% showed little change.”
-“Students also spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago”
-“35% of students report spending five or fewer hours per week studying alone.”
-“50% said they never took a class in a typical semester where they wrote more than 20 pages”
-“32% never took a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.”
I spent eight years studying at some of the finest public universities in the country, and I can tell you from personal experience that even our most challenging college courses have been pathetically dumbed down.
And at our “less than finest” public universities, the level of education can be something of a bad joke. In another previous article, I shared some examples of actual courses that have been taught at U.S. universities in recent years…
Could you imagine getting actual college credit for a course entitled “What If Harry Potter Is Real?”
This is why many of our college graduates can barely put two sentences together. They aren’t being challenged, and the quality of the education most of them are receiving is incredibly poor.
But even though they aren’t being challenged, students are taking longer to get through college than ever. Federal statistics reveal that only 36 percent of all full-time students receive a bachelor’s degree within four years, and only 77 percent of all full-time students have earned a bachelor’s degree by the end of six years.
Of course our system of education is not entirely to blame. The truth is that young Americans spend far more time consuming media than they do hitting the books, and what passes for “entertainment” these days is rapidly turning their brains to mush.
According to a report put out by Nielsen, this is how much time the average American spends consuming media on various devices each day…
Watching live television: 4 hours, 32 minutes
Watching time-shifted television: 30 minutes
Listening to the radio: 2 hours, 44 minutes
Using a smartphone: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Using Internet on a computer: 1 hour, 6 minutes
When you add it all up, the average American spends more than 10 hours a day plugged into some form of media.
And if you allow anyone to pump “programming” into your mind for 10 hours a day, it is going to have a dramatic impact.
In the end, I truly believe that we all greatly underestimate the influence that the mainstream media has on all of us. We willingly plug into “the Matrix” for endless hours, but then somehow we still expect “to think for ourselves”.
There are very few of us that can say that we have not been exposed to thousands upon thousands of hours of conditioning. And all of that garbage can make it very, very difficult to think clearly.
It is not because of a lack of input that we have become so stupid as a society. The big problem is what we are putting into our minds.
If we continue to put garbage in, we are going to continue to get garbage out, and that is the cold, hard reality of the matter.
Did you know that when you take the number of working age Americans that are officially unemployed (8.2 million) and add that number to the number of working age Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force” (94.3 million), that gives us a grand total of 102.5 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now? I have written about this before, but today I want to focus just on Americans that are in their prime working years. When you look at only Americans that are from age 25 to age 54, 23.2 percent of them are unemployed right now. The following analysis and chart come from the Weekly Standard…
Here’s a chart showing those in that age group currently employed (95.6 million) and those who aren’t (28.9 million):
“There are 124.5 million Americans in their prime working years (ages 25–54). Nearly one-quarter of this group—28.9 million people, or 23.2 percent of the total—is not currently employed. They either became so discouraged that they left the labor force entirely, or they are in the labor force but unemployed. This group of non-employed individuals is more than 3.5 million larger than before the recession began in 2007,” writes the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee.
Clearly, we have never recovered from the impact of the last recession.
But let’s try to put these numbers in context.
Below, I would like to share two charts with you. They show what has happened to the inactivity rates for men and for women in their prime working years in the United States in recent years.
In order to be considered “inactive”, you can’t have a job and you can’t be looking for a job. So this subset of people is smaller than the group that we were talking about above. The 23.2 percent of Americans in their prime working years that are unemployed right now includes those that are looking for a job and those that are not looking for a job.
These next two charts do not include anyone that has a job or that is currently looking for a job. These charts only cover “inactive” people in their prime working years that are not considered to be in the labor force.
As you can see in this first chart, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years exploded higher during the last recession and then continued to go up even after the recession supposedly ended. At this point, it is hovering near all-time record highs. Does this look like an “economic recovery” to you?…
For women, we see a similar thing. In this next chart, you can see that the inactivity rate for women in their prime working years rose during the last recession and then just kept on rising. At this point, it remains far higher than it was during the last recession…
What are we to make of all this?
For both men and women in their prime working years, the inactivity rate is significantly higher than it was during the last recession.
All of these people neither have a job nor are they looking for one.
So what in the world is going on here?
Are they independently wealthy?
Have these people found rich spouses to marry so they don’t have to work?
And even if you have a job, that does not mean that you are on easy street. According to the Social Security Administration, 51 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
Tens of millions of Americans are now among the ranks of “the working poor”. So many families are watching their expenses soar while their paychecks go down or stagnate. If you are in this situation right now, then you probably know how exceedingly stressful it can be.
Just look at what is happening to the cost of health insurance. The following comes from Fox News…
Health insurance premiums have increased faster than wages and inflation in recent years, rising an average of 28 percent from 2009 to 2014 despite the enactment of Obamacare, according to a report from Freedom Partners.
And I am not exactly sure where they got those numbers. Personally, I know that my health insurance rates have gone up far faster than that.
Two years ago, my health insurance company wanted to double the health insurance premiums for my family even though we never get sick. So I switched to another insurance company that offered a policy that was only about 30 percent higher than my last one. But then when it came time to renew, that insurance company wanted to raise my rate by another 50 percent.
Thanks to Obamacare, American families are being absolutely crippled by the cost of health care. And of course we are seeing the rising cost of living so many other places as well. Our paychecks are being squeezed harder and harder, and this is absolutely killing the middle class. In fact, the middle class in America is now a minority for the first time ever.
And now for the real bad news – this is about as good as things are ever going to get in this country. As you can see from what I have shared above, we never really had any sort of meaningful “economic recovery”, and now we have entered the early phases of the next major downturn.
So where do we go from here? Unfortunately, our debt-fueled prosperity has provided us with a massively inflated standard of living that is not even close to sustainable. As this bubble bursts, the economic pain is going to be absolutely unprecedented.
But it won’t be just economic pain that we are facing. In my new book, I detail the things that I believe that are coming to this country, and I explain why the entire planet will soon be facing incredibly challenging times. It is going to be one of the most controversial Christian books of 2016, because it directly challenges many of the things that are being taught in mainstream churches today. My book is an ominous message of warning and an inspiring message of hope, and I truly believe that it is the most important thing that I have ever written.
No matter how you may see the future, the key is that we all learn to love one another. The years ahead are going to be extremely challenging, and those that want to chase everyone else away and survive as lone wolves are going to have a very rough time. We all need each other, and those that have friends, family and communities around them are going to be in a much better position to weather the coming storms.
So let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst…
Many of the exact same groups that participated in Occupy Wall Street and helped organize protest rallies in Ferguson and Baltimore are now promising to bring us “the largest civil disobedience actions in a generation”. I recently wrote about the trouble that radical leftists have caused by attempting to disrupt Trump campaign events, but now there is a very organized effort to turn this into a national movement. On March 19th, thousands of angry protesters will descend on Trump Tower in New York City to denounce Donald Trump’s “fascist policies”, and on April 2nd dozens of leftist organizations will join together to launch “Democracy Spring” in Philadelphia. From there, large numbers of liberal activists will march to Washington D.C. where they will “risk arrest” during a “peaceful” sit-in at the U.S. Capitol from April 11th to April 18th. If the radical left is this freaked out about Donald Trump now, how bad will things get if he actually becomes the Republican nominee?
I suppose that it was only a matter of time before the radical left began to specifically target Trump properties. I hope that Trump has good security, because it will definitely be tested starting tomorrow…
Left-wing demonstrators have announced their latest anti-Trump event – a march on Trump Tower in New York City to protest against The Donald’s “fascist policies”.
A Facebook page for the rally outlines the plan, organized by a group called ‘Cosmopolitan Antifascists’, to march on the building at 2pm on Saturday afternoon.
“Donald J. Trump has made headlines in recent months with his divisive rhetoric, hate speech, and extremist plans to “make America great again”. We, in fact, believe this will do the opposite to this nation. Trump’s policy threatens many of us in the Black, Latino, LGBT, Muslim, and other communities,” states the page.
According to the Facebook page for “Cosmopolitan Antifascists”, 5,000 people plan to show up and 15,000 more are “interested” in this event.
Will it turn out to be a completely peaceful protest?
Let’s certainly hope so.
Perhaps even more disturbing is what is going to happen in early April. Dozens of far left groups have gotten behind a movement that has been officially dubbed “Democracy Spring”.
Obviously, that name was chosen to conjure up memories of the “Arab Spring”, and we all remember how “peaceful” that was.
This spring, in the heart of the primary season, as the national election begins to take center stage, Americans of all ages, faiths, political perspectives, and walks of life will bring the popular cry for change to Washington in a way that’s impossible to ignore: with nonviolent civil disobedience on a historic scale.
We will demand that Congress listen to the People and take immediate action to save our democracy. And we won’t leave until they do — or until they send thousands of us to jail, along with the unmistakable message that our country needs a new Congress, one that that will end the legalized corruption of our democracy and ensure that every American has an equal voice in government.
Do you understand the threat that is being made there?
They are purposely planning to break the law and get arrested. In fact, their website says that there are already more than 2,000 people that have “pledged to risk arrest” between April 11th and April 18th…
The campaign will begin on April 2nd with a march from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. where thousands will gather to reclaim the US Capitol in a powerful, peaceful, and massive sit-in that no one can ignore. Over 2,000 people have already pledged to risk arrest between April 11th-18th in what will be one of the largest civil disobedience actions in a generation.
And the list of groups that are backing this movement reads like a who’s who of radical leftist organizations…
15 Now Philly
100 Grannies for a Livable Future
African American Ministers in Action
American Ethical Union
American Family Voices
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
Big Apple Coffee Party
Brave New Films
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for the Working Poor
Citizen Action NY
Coffee Party USA
Columbus Campaign for Arms Control
Conscious Elders Network
Democracy for America
Democratic Socialists of America
Dolores Huerta Foundation
East Coast Cannabis Coalition (ECCC)
East Point Peace Academy
Elders Climate Action
Energy Action Coalition
Food & Water Watch
Franciscan Action Network
Friends of the Earth
Get Money Out – Maryland
Human Earth Animal Liberation (HEAL)
Institute for Policy Studies
Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC)
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Jewish Voice for Peace
Just Foreign Policy
Leadership Development Initiative
March Against Corruption
March Against Monsanto
Maryland Committee to Amend
Massachusetts Communities Action Network (MCAN)
Money Out! People In!
National Organization for Women (NOW)
National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
National People’s Action
Network of Spiritual Progressives/ Tikkun Magazine
New Hampshire Rebellion
Office of the Americas
PA United to Amend
Pay 2 Play
People Demanding Action
People for Bernie
People for the American Way
People Over Politics
People’s Empowerment Project
Pride at Work-New York City/Long Island
Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC)
Progressive Democrats of America
Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU)
Small Planet Institute
Social Security Works
South Central Wisconsin United To Amend
Stop Police Terror Project DC
Unitarian Universalist Association
Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County
United Native Americans
United for Peace and Justice
United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS)
United States Student Association (USSA)
United We Dream
U.S. Climate Plan
Ursulines of Tildonk for Justice & Peace
We are Woman
We the People Massachusetts
Working Families Party
World Beyond War
Young Democratic Socialists
Youth Jobs Coalition / We Have a Future
This is just the beginning. The radical left has won the hearts and minds of millions of our young people, and many of these groups are preaching a message of anger, frustration and direct confrontation.
For now, let’s hope that these “protests” are at least somewhat peaceful. But throughout history, leftist revolutions have almost always turned violent at least to a certain degree.
And let there be no confusion – the radical left very much wants a revolution. There is a reason why Bernie Sanders uses that word so much in his applause lines. It is a buzzword that evokes some very powerful imagery for the radical left.
America is changing, and not for the better. From this point forward, the radical left in America is going to become much more active, and in the end that is going to have dramatic consequences for all of us.
Exports fell precipitously during the last two recessions, and now it is happening again. So how in the world can anyone make the claim that the U.S. economy is in good shape? On my website I have been repeatedly pointing out the parallels between the last two major economic downturns and the current crisis, and I am going to discuss another one today. Since peaking in late 2014, U.S. exports have been steadily declining, and this is something that we never see outside of a major recession. On the chart that I have shared below, the shaded gray bars represent the last two recessions, and you can see that exports of goods and services plunged dramatically in both instances…
The U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in January as a strong dollar and weak global demand helped to push exports to a more than 5-1/2-year low, suggesting trade will continue to weigh on economic growth in the first quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Friday the trade gap increased 2.2 percent to $45.7 billion. December’s trade deficit was revised up to $44.7 billion from the previously reported $43.4 billion. Exports have declined for four straight months.
Because our exports are falling faster than our imports, our trade deficit is blowing out once again. Every year we buy hundreds of billions of dollars more from the rest of the world than they buy from us, and this is systematically wrecking our economy. Over the past several decades, we have lost tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities, millions of good paying manufacturing jobs, and major exporting nations such as China have become exceedingly wealthy at our expense.
We are being absolutely killed on trade, and yet very few of our politicians ever want to talk about this.
A brand new study that was recently discussed in the New York Times is bringing some renewed attention to these problems. It turns out that the promised “benefits” of merging the U.S. economy into the global economic system simply have not materialized…
In a recent study, three economists — David Autor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, David Dorn at the University of Zurich and Gordon Hanson at the University of California, San Diego — raised a profound challenge to all of us brought up to believe that economies quickly recover from trade shocks. In theory, a developed industrial country like the United States adjusts to import competition by moving workers into more advanced industries that can successfully compete in global markets.
They examined the experience of American workers after China erupted onto world markets some two decades ago. The presumed adjustment, they concluded, never happened. Or at least hasn’t happened yet. Wages remain low and unemployment high in the most affected local job markets. Nationally, there is no sign of offsetting job gains elsewhere in the economy. What’s more, they found that sagging wages in local labor markets exposed to Chinese competition reduced earnings by $213 per adult per year.
Another study conducted by some of the same researchers discovered that 2.4 million American jobs were lost between 1999 and 2011 due to rising Chinese imports.
The China Containerized Freight Index (CCFI), published weekly, tracks contractual and spot-market rates for shipping containers from major ports in China to 14 regions around the world. Unlike most Chinese government data, this index reflects the unvarnished reality of the shipping industry in a languishing global economy. For the latest reporting week, the index dropped 4.1% to 705.6, its lowest level ever.
How many numbers like this do we have to get before we will all finally admit that we are in the midst of a major global economic meltdown?
Here in the United States, the recent rally in the stock market has most people feeling pretty good about things these days. But the truth is that there are ups and downs during any financial crisis, and this recent rally is putting the finishing touches on a very dangerous leaning “W” pattern that could signal a big dive ahead.
The bull market from early 2009 into May 2015 looks just like every bubble in history, and I’m getting one sign after the next that we did indeed peak last May. The dominant pattern in the stock market is the “rounded top” pattern:
After trading in a steep, bubble-like channel from late 2011 into late 2014, with only 10% maximum volatility top to bottom, the market finally lost its momentum… just as the Fed finished tapering its QE. That’s because the Fed was the primary driver in this stock bubble in the first place!
Now is not the time to relax at all.
In fact, now is the time to sound the alarm louder than ever.
That is one reason why my wife and I have started up a new television program. It will be airing on Christian television, but it will also be available on YouTube as well…
As I have said before, 2016 is the year when everything changes.
So don’t be fooled just because the stock market had a couple of good weeks. The truth is that global economic activity is slowing down significantly, geopolitical instability continues to get even worse, and this political season has caused very deep, simmering tensions in the United States to rise to the surface.
Let us hope that we have a few more weeks of relative stability like we are currently experiencing so that we can have more time to get prepared, but I certainly wouldn’t count on it.