Why does it seem like wherever there is human suffering, some giant bank is making money off of it? According to a new report from the World Development Movement, Goldman Sachs made about 400 million dollars betting on food prices last year. Overall, 2012 was quite a banner year for Goldman Sachs. As I reported in a previous article, revenues for Goldman increased by about 30 percent in 2012 and the price of Goldman stock has risen by more than 40 percent over the past 12 months. It is estimated that the average banker at Goldman brought in a pay and bonus package of approximately $396,500 for 2012. So without a doubt, Goldman Sachs is swimming in money right now. But what is the price for all of this “success”? Many claim that the rampant speculation on food prices by the big banks has dramatically increased the global price of food and has caused the suffering of hundreds of millions of poor families around the planet to become much worse. At this point, global food prices are more than twice as high as they were back in 2003. Approximately 2 billion people on the planet spend at least half of their incomes on food, and close to a billion people regularly do not have enough food to eat. Is it moral for Goldman Sachs and other big banks such as Barclays and Morgan Stanley to make hundreds of millions of dollars betting on the price of food if that is going to drive up global food prices and make it harder for poor families all over the world to feed themselves?
This is another reason why the derivatives bubble is so bad for the world economy. Goldman Sachs and other big banks are treating the global food supply as if it was some kind of a casino game. This kind of reckless activity was greatly condemned by the World Development Movement report…
“Goldman Sachs is the global leader in a trade that is driving food prices up while nearly a billion people are hungry. The bank lobbied for the financial deregulation that made it possible to pour billions into the commodity derivative markets, created the necessary financial instruments, and is now raking in the profits. Speculation is fuelling volatility and food price spikes, hurting people who struggle to afford food across the world.”
So shouldn’t there be a law against this kind of a thing?
Well, in the United States there actually is, but the law has been blocked by the big Wall Street banks and their very highly paid lawyers. The following is another excerpt from the report…
“The US has passed legislation to limit speculation, but the controls have not been implemented due to a legal challenge from Wall Street spearheaded by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, of which Goldman Sachs is a leading member. Similar legislation is on the table at the EU, but the UK government has so far opposed effective controls. Goldman Sachs has lobbied against controls in both the US and the EU.”
Posted below is a chart that shows what this kind of activity has done to commodity prices over the past couple of decades. You will notice that commodity prices were fairly stable in the 1990s, but since the year 2000 they have been extremely volatile…
The money tells the story. Since the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, there has been a 50-fold increase in dollars invested in commodity index funds. To put the phenomenon in real terms: In 2003, the commodities futures market still totaled a sleepy $13 billion. But when the global financial crisis sent investors running scared in early 2008, and as dollars, pounds, and euros evaded investor confidence, commodities — including food — seemed like the last, best place for hedge, pension, and sovereign wealth funds to park their cash. “You had people who had no clue what commodities were all about suddenly buying commodities,” an analyst from the United States Department of Agriculture told me. In the first 55 days of 2008, speculators poured $55 billion into commodity markets, and by July, $318 billion was roiling the markets. Food inflation has remained steady since.
The money flowed, and the bankers were ready with a sparkling new casino of food derivatives. Spearheaded by oil and gas prices (the dominant commodities of the index funds) the new investment products ignited the markets of all the other indexed commodities, which led to a problem familiar to those versed in the history of tulips, dot-coms, and cheap real estate: a food bubble. Hard red spring wheat, which usually trades in the $4 to $6 dollar range per 60-pound bushel, broke all previous records as the futures contract climbed into the teens and kept on going until it topped $25. And so, from 2005 to 2008, the worldwide price of food rose 80 percent –and has kept rising.
Are you angry yet?
You should be.
Poor families all over the planet are suffering so that Wall Street bankers can make bigger profits.
Sadly, the global food supply is getting tighter with each passing day, and things are looking rather ominous for the years ahead.
According to the United Nations, global food reserves have reached their lowest level in nearly 40 years. Global food reserves have not been this low since 1974, but the population of the world has greatly increased since then. If 2013 is another year of drought and bad harvests, things could spiral out of control rather quickly…
World grain reserves are so dangerously low that severe weather in the United States or other food-exporting countries could trigger a major hunger crisis next year, the United Nations has warned.
Failing harvests in the US, Ukraine and other countries this year have eroded reserves to their lowest level since 1974. The US, which has experienced record heatwaves and droughts in 2012, now holds in reserve a historically low 6.5% of the maize that it expects to consume in the next year, says the UN.
“We’ve not been producing as much as we are consuming. That is why stocks are being run down. Supplies are now very tight across the world and reserves are at a very low level, leaving no room for unexpected events next year,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The world has barely been able to feed itself for some time now. In fact, we have consumed more food than we have produced for 6 of the last 11 years…
Evan Fraser, author of Empires of Food and a geography lecturer at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, says: “For six of the last 11 years the world has consumed more food than it has grown. We do not have any buffer and are running down reserves. Our stocks are very low and if we have a dry winter and a poor rice harvest we could see a major food crisis across the board.”
“Even if things do not boil over this year, by next summer we’ll have used up this buffer and consumers in the poorer parts of the world will once again be exposed to the effects of anything that hurts production.”
We desperately need a good growing season next summer, and all eyes are on the United States. The U.S. exports more food than anyone else does, and last summer the United States experienced the worst drought that it had seen in about 50 years. That drought left deep scars all over the country. The following is from a recent Rolling Stone article…
In 2012, more than 9 million acres went up in flames in this country. Only dredging and some eleventh-hour rain kept the mighty Mississippi River from being shut down to navigation due to low water levels; continuing drought conditions make “long-term stabilization” of river levels unlikely in the near future. Several of the Great Lakes are soon expected to hit their lowest levels in history. In Nebraska last summer, a 100-mile stretch of the Platte River simply dried up. Drought led the USDA to declare federal disaster areas in 2,245 counties in 39 states last year, and the federal government will likely have to pay tens of billions for crop insurance and lost crops. As ranchers became increasingly desperate to feed their livestock, “hay rustling” and other agricultural crimes rose.
Ranchers were hit particularly hard. Because they couldn’t feed their herds, many ranchers slaughtered a tremendous number of animals. As a result, the U.S. cattle herd is now sitting at a 60 year low.
What do you think that is going to do to meat prices over the next few years?
Meanwhile, the drought continues. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, this is one of the worst winter droughts the U.S. has ever seen. At this point, more than 60 percent of the entire nation is currently experiencing drought.
If things don’t turn around dramatically, 2013 could be an absolutely nightmarish year for crops in the United States. If 2013 does turn out to be another bad year, food prices would soar both in the U.S. and on the global level. The following is from a recent CNBC article…
The severe drought that swept through much of the U.S. last year is continuing into 2013, threatening to cripple economic growth while forcing consumers to pay higher food prices.
“The drought will have a significant impact on prices, especially beef, pork and chicken,” said Ernie Gross, an economic professor at Creighton University and who studies farming issues.
So let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.
It looks like higher food prices are on the way, and millions of poor families all over the planet will be hard-pressed to feed their families.
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs will be laughing all the way to the bank.
America is rapidly becoming a nation of takers. An increasing number of Americans expect the government to take care of them from the cradle to the grave, and they expect the government to dig into the pockets of others in order to pay for it all. This philosophy can be very seductive, but what happens when the number of takers eventually outnumbers the number of producers? In 11 different U.S. states, the number of government dependents exceeds the number of private sector workers. This list of states includes some of the biggest states in the country: California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Maine, Kentucky, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, New Mexico and Hawaii. It is interesting to note that seven of those states were won by Barack Obama on election night. In California, there are 139 “takers” for every 100 private sector workers. That is crazy! The American people have become absolutely addicted to government money, and it gets worse with each passing year. If you can believe it, entitlements accounted for 62 percent of all federal spending in fiscal year 2012. It would be one thing if we could afford all of this spending, but unfortunately we simply cannot. We are drowning in debt, and we are stealing more than a hundred million more dollars from future generations with each passing hour. No bank robber in history can match that kind of theft.
Yes, we will always need a safety net. There are many people out there that simply cannot take care of themselves. We certainly don’t want to see anyone sleeping in the streets or starving to death.
But if the number of people jumping on to the safety net continues to grow at the current pace, the net will break and it will not be available for any of us.
For example, the number of Americans on food stamps grew from about 17 million in 2000 to more than 47 million today. It nearly tripled in just 12 years.
What will happen if it nearly triples again over the next 12 years?
The federal government even has a website (benefits.gov) that guides people through the process of figuring out what welfare programs they can take advantage of.
Overall, the federal government runs nearly 80 different “means-tested welfare programs” and more than 100 million Americans are already enrolled in at least one of those programs.
Yes, I realize that figure is very hard to believe. I had a hard time believing it when I first came across it.
And it is even more shocking when you realize that the figure of 100 million Americans does not even include those who only receive Social Security or Medicare.
To support all of those Americans on Social Security, there are only about 94.75 million full-time private sector workers.
So there are just 1.67 full-time private sector workers to support each American that is on Social Security.
Medicare is also growing like crazy. As I wrote about the other day, the number of Americans on Medicare is expected to grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.
How much farther can we push things before the entire system collapses?
In order to support this exploding entitlement system, we need a lot more Americans to be working good paying jobs.
Unfortunately, millions of good paying jobs continue to be shipped overseas and they aren’t coming back.
We are even losing good jobs to our own prisoners. The United States has the largest prison population in the world by far, and the exploitation of that low wage labor pool has become a boom industry in America. Even Microsoft and Boeing are using prison labor now. Just check out this video.
Meanwhile, there are millions upon millions of law-abiding Americans that cannot find jobs and that cannot take care of their families.
So poverty and dependence on the government are absolutely exploding. We have a system that is so messed up that it is hard to even put it into words. The middle class is being viciously shredded, and most Americans just continue to applaud the politicians from both parties that are doing this to us.
Our economy is being gutted at the same time that the welfare state is experiencing unprecedented growth. Instead of giving us real answers, our “leaders” just continue to borrow, spend and print more money. We are about to hit the debt limit again, and the Obama administration is saying that we should just do away with the debt limit permanently.
Most of our politicians don’t seem to understand that they are systematically destroying our economy and the bright futures that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have.
But there are some politicians out there that get it. Unfortunately, many of them live in other countries. For example, Canadian MP Pierre Poilievre seems to have a firm grasp on what debt is doing to the United States. The following are some excerpts from one of his speeches…
“By 2020, the US Government will be spending more annually on debt interest than the total combined military budgets of China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey, and Israel.”
“Through government spending the indulgence of one is the burden of another; through government borrowing, the excess of one generation becomes the yoke of the next; through international bailouts, one nation’s extravagance becomes another nation’s debt”
“Everyone takes, nobody makes, work doesn’t pay, indulgence doesn’t cost, money is free, and money is worthless.”
And if we continue down this path it is most definitely true that our money will eventually become worthless at some point. Just today I was down at the grocery store, and a can of chili that I was able to get on sale for 75 cents a couple of years ago now has a “sale price” of $1.69. If the Federal Reserve keeps recklessly printing dollars, eventually we will be fortunate to get a can of chili for 10 bucks. Things cost too much already, and the Fed seems absolutely determined to cut the legs out from under the U.S. dollar.
Unfortunately, printing money is the only way that we are going to be able to service the gigantic amounts of debt that we are accumulating.
Are you good at flipping burgers , waiting tables or stocking shelves? Are you proficient with a cash register? Do you enjoy doing mindless work for very low pay? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you are probably going to fit in very well in the new U.S. economy. According to a report that has just been released by the National Employment Law Project, 58 percent of the jobs that have been created since the end of the recession have been low paying jobs. So exactly what is a low paying job? Well, the National Employment Law Project defines it as a job with an hourly wage between $7.69 and $13.83. But of course you can’t pay a mortgage or support a family on $13.83 an hour. Even if you got full-time hours the entire year, you would make less than $28,000 on an annual basis. The federal poverty level for a family of five is $27,010. So needless to say, most of these new jobs are not paying enough to support a middle class lifestyle. This represents an economic failure on a fundamental level. Our economy is producing very few good jobs that enable people to be able to raise families and live the American Dream. The ranks of “the working poor” are exploding and the number of Americans that are dependent on the government is sitting at an all-time record. Sadly, if current trends continue things are going to get a lot worse.
The numbers compiled by the National Employment Law Project are absolutely stunning. Most of the jobs lost during the recent recession were mid-wage jobs, and most of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs. This represents a fundamental shift in our economy. Just check out these figures….
-21 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were low wage jobs paying between $7.69 and $13.83 an hour.
-58 percent of the jobs created since the end of the recession have been low wage jobs paying between $7.69 and $13.83 an hour.
-60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs paying between $13.84 and $21.13 an hour.
-22 percent of the jobs created since the end of the recession have been mid-wage jobs paying between $13.84 and $21.13 an hour.
But even the high end of the mid-wage pay scale is not that great.
If you make $21.13 an hour and you work full-time hours for the entire year you will end up making about 42,000 for an entire year.
Yes, that can probably support a family of four in most areas of the country, but you really have to scrimp and save to do it.
And keep in mind that 80 percent of all the jobs being created now pay at that level or less.
Welcome to the new U.S. economy.
It really stinks for workers.
The truth is that there has been a fundamental cultural change in our economy. Workers are no longer valued. They are viewed as expensive liabilities that should be disposed of as rapidly as possible once their usefulness has ended.
There is very little loyalty to workers these days, and most big corporations do not really care about the quality of the lives of their workers. The number of companies offering health insurance to their workers continues to decline (and thanks to Obamacare that decline is accelerating even further), and the number of companies offering pension plans to their workers continues to decrease as well.
At this point, less than 25 percent of all jobs in the United States are good jobs, and that number continues to shrink.
Is this because the big corporations are not making enough money?
Not at all.
In fact, corporate profits have been setting all-time records in recent years….
Meanwhile, wages as a percentage of the economy are at an all-time low….
So why is this happening?
Well, I already talked about the fundamental cultural shift that is happening. Companies simply do not care about their workers like they used to. America is becoming a very cold place.
Another major factor is that millions upon millions of our good jobs have been shipped overseas thanks to the emerging one world economy.
In the old days, U.S. corporations were more or less forced to hire American workers and the wages earned from a typical manufacturing job could easily support a growing family.
That has entirely changed now.
The big corporations no longer need American workers to make stuff. They can just close up shop and move their facilities to the other side of the globe where it is legal to pay slave labor wages to very desperate workers.
And now there is greatly increased competition for the jobs that we still have in this country because so many of our jobs have disappeared.
If you don’t like how your employer is treating you that is just too bad. In most cases your employer would have absolutely no problem finding a replacement for you. In fact, there are probably thousands of people in your community that are desperate for a job such as yours.
Have you seen video of the teacher protests that are going on in Wisconsin? We haven’t seen anything like this in America in quite some time. If you haven’t seen video of the protests yet, some very good raw footage is posted below. On the one hand it is good to see Americans coming together and standing up for what they believe in, but on the other hand what these teachers are freaking out about shows just how much America has changed. These teachers are not protesting for liberty, freedom or to change the government. Rather, they are protesting because they want things to remain the same. They simply don’t want anyone to mess with their pay. Well, the truth is that none of us ever wants to experience a pay cut. It is not a lot of fun. But sadly, states like Wisconsin are so broke that they have to find cuts somewhere. Someone is going to have to make a sacrifice. The teachers in Wisconsin just want to make sure that it is not them.
In the United States today, state and local governments are facing unprecedented budget crunches. Tax revenues are way down and expenses are way up. State and local government debt has reached at an all-time high of 22 percent of U.S. GDP, and many state and local governments are teetering on the brink of insolvency.
States like Wisconsin have to do something or else they will collapse financially. Wisconsin is facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit (which for that state is huge), and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans in the legislature are attempting to make some tough cuts.
In particular, they want public employees to pay a little more towards their health care premiums and pension programs. In fact, what the Republicans are proposing would still leave Wisconsin public employees contributing far less to health care and pensions than their private sector counterparts.
Scott and I are very close friends. We e-mail each other quite a bit… He’s basically saying that state workers which have extremely generous benefits packages relative to their private sector counterparts, they contribute next to nothing to their pensions, very, very little in their health care packages.
He’s asking that they contribute about 12 percent for their health care premiums, which is about half of the private sector average, and about 5.6 percent to their pensions. It’s not asking a lot. It’s still about half of what private sector pensions do and health care packages do.
So he’s basically saying “I want you public workers half of what your private sector counterparts do” and he’s getting riots. It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison these days.
These proposed changes have caused a massive uproar in Wisconsin. Just check out the following raw video footage from the last few days….
But this is what we have come to as a nation. Almost everyone agrees that reducing government debt is a good thing “in theory”, but whenever anyone starts to put forward some specific proposals to cut government spending it makes those that will be affected by the cuts extremely upset.
Just look at what is happening with the federal government. Republicans and Democrats are both frothing at the mouth over extremely small budget cuts that have been proposed. Virtually none of our national politicians are even willing to discuss budget cuts that would actually make a serious dent in our budget deficits.
But we have got to do something. Spending by the U.S. government is spinning wildly out of control. Back in 1970, the U.S. government only spent about 200 billion dollars for the whole year. Well, this year the federal government is going to spend somewhere around 3.6 trillion dollars, and Barack Obama’s newest budget proposal calls for U.S. government spending to increase to 5.6 trillion dollars by the year 2021. If the government continues to spend money at such a rapid pace it is going to completely wipe out our entire economic system….
But it is not just the U.S. government that is spending like a drunken sailor. Most of our state governments are complete financial disaster zones at this point as well.
As I have written about previously, the state of Illinois is such a financial disaster zone that it is hard to even describe. According to 60 Minutes, the state of Illinois is six months behind on their bill payments. 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Croft asked Illinois state Comptroller Dan Hynes how many people and organizations are waiting to be paid by the state, and this is how Hynes responded….
“It’s fair to say that there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people waiting to be paid by the state.”
Something has got to be done about our national addiction to debt.
Government spending has to be dramatically cut. All of us are going to have to make sacrifices. We simply cannot continue to spend far, far, far more than we bring in.
But we are Americans – we do not like to make sacrifices.
Our founding fathers warned us about this. They warned that when the American people figured out that they could vote themselves money out of the U.S. Treasury it would greatly endanger our republic.
Unfortunately that is exactly what is happening today. The vast majority of government spending on both the national and state levels consists of direct payments to individuals of one sort or another.
The American people have become addicted to the bread crumbs that they receive from the hand of their master.
This is not what our republic was supposed to look like.
As the U.S. economy continues to decline, we are going to see a lot more riots like we have seen in Wisconsin. Once the American people realize that the “good times” are over, all hell is going to break loose.
Already the anger and the frustration of the American people is starting to boil over. Unfortunately, that anger and frustration is focused in 1000 different directions. The ruling elite and the establishment media are constantly encouraging us to hate one another. I recently wrote about this phenomenon in an article on another website….
The truth is that the “establishment” is constantly trying to divide us and get us fighting with one another. They pit the Republicans against the Democrats (even as though control both sides). They pit one race against another. They pit one gender against another. We are told that the rich are against the poor, the north is against the south, urban is against rural and that there are even “generational battles” going on. Frustration and hate are rapidly growing in the United States today, and a lot of that frustration and hate is unfortunately aimed at the targets that the mainstream media has programmed all of us to hate. Meanwhile, those at the top of the pyramid who are controlling the whole game love it when we are divided because we can never become united and challenge their control.
Unfortunately, America is more divided today than ever. Our extreme affluence has kept the thin veneer of civilization that we all take for granted from disappearing so far, but once our affluence is gone all of the hate and frustration in society is going to come bubbling to the surface and it is going to be horrifying to behold.
Once the economic collapse happens, most Americans are not going to take it sitting down. Most Americans are going to want someone to blame. Most Americans are going to want to lash out somehow.
America today is like a big, fat spoiled baby that is about to have its favorite pacifier permanently taken away. America is going to whine and cry and complain like there is no tomorrow.
For decades the financial “gloom and doomers” have been warning about what would happen to this country if we didn’t get our house in order, but nobody wanted to listen. Everyone just kept piling up more debt as if it would never be a problem.
Well, now our entire country is covered in red ink. Large numbers of state and local governments across the country are on the verge of defaulting on their debts, and they are hoping that the federal government will bail them out. The federal government has already accumulated the biggest pile of debt the world has ever seen and continues to behave as if we can just keep borrowing and spending massive amounts of money forever.
There is no way out of this nightmare under the current system. Taxing people more is not going to solve our problems. Taxing people less is not going to solve our problems.
We have gotten to the point where it is inevitable that the debt bubble that we have created is going to burst. Our politicians can try to delay it for a while, but in the end the whole house of cards is going to come crashing down.
When the U.S. economy does totally collapse, it is going to make the riots that we have seen in Egypt and throughout the Middle East this year seem tame by comparison.
What we are witnessing right now in Wisconsin are just the “birth pains”. The American people don’t want to “tighten their belts”. In fact, most Americans have absolutely no idea what “hard times” would even look like. When things go from bad to worse we are going to see temper tantrums in this country like we have never seen before.
So get ready. Unless there is some kind of dramatic transformation in this country, in the years ahead we are going to see some horrific economic riots.
It would be nice if we had a brighter future to look forward to, but we don’t do ourselves any favors by living in denial.
So what do you all think about what has been going on in Wisconsin? Do you all believe that we could see huge economic riots inside America in the years ahead? Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion below….