Are millions of Americans about to see the big, juicy pensions that they were counting on to fund their golden years go up in flames in the biggest financial disaster in U.S. history? When Bloomberg published an editorial entitled “Pension Crisis Too Big for Markets to Ignore“, it simply confirmed what a lot of people already knew to be true. Pension funds all over America are woefully underfunded, and they have been pouring mind boggling amounts of money into very risky investments such as Internet stocks and commercial mortgages. Just like with subprime mortgages in 2008, this is a crisis that everyone can see coming well in advance, and yet nothing is being done about it.
On a day to day basis, Americans generally don’t think very much about pensions. Most of those that have been promised pensions simply have faith that they will be there when they need them.
Unfortunately, the truth is that pension plans all over the country are severely underfunded, and this has already resulted in local fiascos such as the one that we just witnessed in Dallas.
But what happened in Dallas is just the very small tip of a very large iceberg. According to Bloomberg, unfunded pension obligations on a national basis “have risen to $1.9 trillion from $292 billion since 2007″…
As was the case with the subprime crisis, the writing appears to be on the wall. And yet calamity has yet to strike. How so? Call it the triumvirate of conspirators – the actuaries, accountants and their accomplices in office. Throw in the law of big numbers, very big numbers, and you get to a disaster in a seemingly permanent state of making. Unfunded pension obligations have risen to $1.9 trillion from $292 billion since 2007.
And of course that $1.9 trillion number is not actually the real number.
That same Bloomberg article goes on to admit that if honest math was being used that the real number would actually be closer to 6 trillion dollars…
So why not just flip the switch and require truth and honesty in public pension math? Too many cities and potentially states would buckle under the weight of more realistic assumed rates of return. By some estimates, unfunded liabilities would triple to upwards of $6 trillion if the prevailing yields on Treasuries were used. That would translate into much steeper funding requirements at a time when budgets are already severely constrained. Pockets of the country would face essential public service budgets being slashed to dangerous levels.
So where are all of these pensions eventually going to come up with 6 trillion dollars?
That is a very good question.
Ultimately, even if financial conditions stay as stable as they are right now, a whole lot of people are not going to get the money that they were promised.
But things will get really “interesting” if we see a major downturn in the financial markets. According to Dave Kranzler, if the stock market were to fall by 10 percent or more and stay there for a number of months, that “would cause every single public pension fund to blow up”. And Kranzler is also deeply concerned about the tremendous amount of exposure that these pension funds have to commercial mortgages…
Circling back to the mall/REIT ticking time-bomb, while the Fed can keep the stock market propped up as means of preventing an immediate nuclear melt-down in U.S. pensions (all of which are substantially “maxed-out” in their mandated equities allocation), the collapse of commercial mortgage-back securities (CMBS) will have the affect of launching a nuclear sub-missile directly into the side of the U.S. financial system.
The commercial mortgage market is about $3 trillion, of which about $1 trillion has been packaged into asset-backed securities and stuffed into yield-starved pension funds. Without a doubt, the same degree of fraud of has been used to concoct the various tranches in these CMBS trusts that was employed during the mid-2000’s mortgage/housing bubble, with full cooperation of the ratings agencies then and now. Just like in 2008, with the derivatives that have been layered into the mix, the embedded leverage in the commercial mortgage/CMBS/REIT model is the financial equivalent of the Fukushima nuclear power plant collapse.
I have previously talked about the ongoing retail apocalypse in the United States which threatens to make so many of these commercial mortgage securities go bad. It is being projected that somewhere around 3,500 stores will close in the months ahead, and this is going to absolutely devastate mall owners. In turn, it is inevitable that a lot of their debts will start to go bad, and pension funds will be hit extremely hard by this.
But the coming stock market crash is going to hit pension funds even harder. Stocks are ridiculously overvalued right now, and if they simply return to “normal valuations”, pension funds are going to lose trillions of dollars.
We are talking about a financial tsunami that will be absolutely unprecedented in our history, and yet investors continue to act like the party can last forever. In fact, we just learned that margin debt on Wall Street has just hit another brand new record high…
The latest data from the New York Stock Exchange show margin debt, or cash borrowed to buy shares, hit a record $528.2 billion in February, up from its prior high of $513.3 billion in January.
Of course my regular readers already know that margin debt also shot up to dramatic peaks just before the last two stock market crashes as well…
Prior periods when margin debt hit records occurred around stock market peaks, including 2000 when the dot-com stock boom went bust, and 2007 when stocks began to crater amid early signs of trouble in the housing market ahead of the 2008 financial crisis.
Margin debt jumped 22% from the end of 1999 before peaking in March 2000 at $278.5 billion, the same month stocks peaked. In 2007, margin debt shot up to $381.4 billion in July, three months before stocks topped.
We are perfectly primed for the greatest financial disaster in American history, and yet very few people are sounding the alarm.
This massive financial bubble is a ticking time bomb, and when it finally goes off it is going to wipe out virtually every pension fund in the United States.
Now that “bail-ins” have become accepted practice all over the planet, no bank account and no pension fund will ever be 100% safe again. In fact, Cyprus-style wealth confiscation is already starting to happen all around the world. As you will read about below, private pension funds were just raided by the government in Poland, and a “bail-in” is being organized for one of the largest banks in Italy. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning. The precedent that was set in Cyprus is being used as a template for establishing bail-in procedures in New Zealand, Canada and all over Europe. It is only a matter of time before we see this exact same type of thing happen in the United States as well. From now on, anyone that keeps a large amount of money in any single bank account or retirement fund is being incredibly foolish.
Let’s take a look at a few of the examples of how Cyprus-style wealth confiscation is now moving forward all over the globe…
For years, there have been rumors that someday the U.S. government would raid private pension funds.
Well, in Poland it just happened.
According to Reuters, private pension funds were raided in order to reduce the size of the government debt…
Poland said on Wednesday it will transfer to the state many of the assets held by private pension funds, slashing public debt but putting in doubt the future of the multi-billion-euro funds, many of them foreign-owned.
The Polish government is doing the best that it can to make this sound like some sort of complicated legal maneuver, but the truth is that what they have done is stolen private assets without giving any compensation in return…
The Polish pension funds’ organisation said the changes may be unconstitutional because the government is taking private assets away from them without offering any compensation.
Announcing the long-awaited overhaul of state-guaranteed pensions, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said private funds within the state-guaranteed system would have their bond holdings transferred to a state pension vehicle, but keep their equity holdings.
He said that what remained in citizens’ pension pots in the private funds will be gradually transferred into the state vehicle over the last 10 years before savers hit retirement age.
For years, Iceland has been applauded for how they handled the last financial crisis. But now it is being proposed that the “blanket guarantee” that currently applies to all bank accounts should be reduced to 100,000 euros. Will this open the door for “haircuts” to be applied to bank account balances above that amount?…
Following the crisis in October 2008, Iceland’s government declared all deposits in domestic financial institutions were ‘blanket’ guaranteed – an Emergency Act that was reafrmed twice since. However, according to RUV, the finance minister is proposing to restrict this guarantee to only deposits less-than-EUR100,000. While some might see the removal of an ’emergency’ measure as a positive, it is of course sadly reminiscent of the European Union “template” to haircut large depositors. This is coincidental (threatening) timing given the current stagnation of talks between Iceland bank creditors and the government over haircuts and lifting capital controls – which have restricted the outflows of around $8 billion.
European finance ministers have agreed to a plan that would make “bail-ins” the standard procedure for rescuing “too big to fail” banks in the future. The following is how CNN described this plan…
European Union finance ministers approved a plan Thursday for dealing with future bank bailouts, forcing bondholders and shareholders to take the hit for bank rescues ahead of taxpayers.
The new framework requires bondholders, shareholders and large depositors with over 100,000 euros to be first to suffer losses when banks fail. Depositors with less than 100,000 euros will be protected. Taxpayer funds would be used only as a last resort.
What this means is that if you have over 100,000 euros in a bank account in Europe, you could lose every single bit of the unprotected amount if your bank collapses.
As Zero Hedge reported on Tuesday, a “bail-in” is now being organized for the oldest bank in Italy…
Recall that three weeks ago we warned that “Monti Paschi Faces Bail-In As Capital Needs Point To Nationalization” although we left open the question of “who will get the haircut including senior bondholders and depositors…. given the small size of sub-debt in the capital structures.” Today, as many expected on the day following the German elections, the dominos are finally starting to wobble, and as we predicted, Monte Paschi, Italy’s oldest and according to many, most insolvent bank, quietly commenced a bondholder “bail in” after it said that it suspended interest payments on three hybrid notes following demands by European authorities that bondholders contribute to the restructuring of the bailed out Italian lender. Remember what Diesel-BOOM said about Cyprus – that it is a template? He wasn’t joking.
As Bloomberg reports, Monte Paschi “said in a statement that it won’t pay interest on about 481 million euros ($650 million) of outstanding hybrid notes issued through MPS Capital Trust II and Antonveneta Capital Trusts I and II.” Why these notes? Because hybrid bondholders have zero protections and zero recourse. “Under the terms of the undated notes, the Siena, Italy-based lender is allowed to suspend interest without defaulting and doesn’t have to make up the missed coupons when payments resume.” Then again hybrids, to quote the Dutchman, are just the template for the balance of the bank’s balance sheet.
Why is this happening now? Simple: the Merkel reelection is in the bag, and the EURUSD is too high (recall Adidas’ laments from last week). Furthermore, if the ECB proceeds with another LTRO as many believe it will, it will force the EURUSD even higher, surging from even more unwanted liquidity. So what to do? Why stage a small, contained crisis of course. Such as a bail in by a major Italian bank. The good news for now is that depositors are untouched. Unfortunately, with depositor cash on the wrong end of the (un)secured liability continuum it is only a matter of time before those with uninsured deposits share some of the Cypriot pain. After all, in the brave New Normal insolvent world, “it is only fair.”
Fortunately, it does not appear that this particular bail-in will hit private bank accounts (at least for now), but it does show that European officials are very serious about applying bail-in procedures when a major bank fails.
The New Zealand government has been discussing implementing a “bail-in” system to deal with any future major bank failures. The following comes from a New Zealand news source…
The National Government are pushing a Cyprus-style solution to bank failure in New Zealand which will see small depositors lose some of their savings to fund big bank bailouts, the Green Party said today.
Open Bank Resolution (OBR) is Finance Minister Bill English’s favoured option dealing with a major bank failure. If a bank fails under OBR, all depositors will have their savings reduced overnight to fund the bank’s bail out.
“Bill English is proposing a Cyprus-style solution for managing bank failure here in New Zealand – a solution that will see small depositors lose some of their savings to fund big bank bailouts,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.
“The Reserve Bank is in the final stages of implementing a system of managing bank failure called Open Bank Resolution. The scheme will put all bank depositors on the hook for bailing out their bank.
“Depositors will overnight have their savings shaved by the amount needed to keep the bank afloat.”
Incredibly, even Canada is moving toward adopting these “bank bail-ins”. In a previous article, I explained that “bail-ins” were even part of the new Canadian government budget…
Cyprus-style “bail-ins” are actually proposed in the new Canadian government budget. When I first heard about this I was quite skeptical, so I went and looked it up for myself. And guess what? It is right there in black and white on pages 144 and 145 of “Economic Action Plan 2013” which the Harper government has already submitted to the House of Commons. This new budget actually proposes “to implement a ‘bail-in’ regime for systemically important banks” in Canada. “Economic Action Plan 2013” was submitted on March 21st, which means that this “bail-in regime” was likely being planned long before the crisis in Cyprus ever erupted.
So what does all of this mean for us?
It means that the governments of the world are eyeing our money as part of the solution to any future failures of major banks.
As a result, there is no longer any truly “safe” place to put your money.
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to spread your money around. In other words, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.
If you have your money a bunch of different places, it is going to be much harder for the government to grab it all.
But if you don’t listen to the warnings and you continue to keep all of your wealth in one giant pile somewhere, don’t be surprised when you get wiped out in a single moment someday.
The pension nightmare that is at the heart of the horrific financial crisis in Detroit is just the tip of the iceberg of the coming retirement crisis that will shake America to the core. Right now, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers are hitting the age of 65 every single day, and this will continue to happen every single day until the year 2030. As a society, we have made trillions of dollars of financial promises to these Baby Boomers, and there is no way that we are going to be able to keep those promises. The money simply is not there. Yes, I suppose that we could eventually see a “super devaluation” of the U.S. dollar and keep our promises to the Baby Boomers using currency that is not worth much more than Monopoly money, but as it stands right now we simply do not have the resources to do what we said that we were going to do. The number of senior citizens in the United States is projected to more than double by the middle of the century, and it would have been nearly impossible to support them all even if we weren’t in the midst of a long-term economic decline. Tens of millions of Americans that are eagerly looking forward to retirement are going to be in for a very rude awakening in the years ahead. There is going to be a lot of heartache and a lot of broken promises.
What is going on in Detroit right now is a perfect example of what will soon be happening all over the nation. Many city workers stuck with their jobs for decades because of the promise of a nice pension at the end of the rainbow. But now those promises are going up in smoke. There has even been talk that retirees will only end up getting about 10 cents for every dollar that they were promised.
Needless to say, many pensioners are extremely angry that the promises that were made to them are not going to be kept. The following is from a recent article in the New York Times…
Many retirees see the plan to cut their pensions as a betrayal, saying that they kept their end of a deal but that the city is now reneging. Retired city workers, police officers and 911 operators said in interviews that the promise of reliable retirement income had helped draw them to work for the City of Detroit in the first place, even if they sometimes had to accept smaller salaries or work nights or weekends.
“Does Detroit have a problem?” asked William Shine, 76, a retired police sergeant. “Absolutely. Did I create it? I don’t think so. They made me some promises, and I made them some promises. I kept my promises. They’re not going to keep theirs.”
But Detroit is far from an isolated case. As Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said the other day, many other cities are heading down the exact same path…
“We may be one of the first. We are the largest. But we absolutely will not be the last.”
Yes, Detroit’s financial problems are immense. But other major U.S. cities are facing unfunded pension liabilities that are even worse.
For example, here are the unfunded pension liabilities for four financially-troubled large U.S. cities…
Detroit: $3.5 billion
Baltimore: $680 million
Los Angeles: $9.4 billion
Chicago: $19 billion
When you break it down on a per citizen basis, Detroit is actually in better shape than the others…
Los Angeles: $8,437
And many state governments are in similar shape. Right now, the state of Illinois has unfunded pension liabilities that total approximately $100 billion.
There are some financial “journalists” out there that are attempting to downplay this problem, but sticking our heads in the sand is not going to make any of this go away.
According to Northwestern University Professor John Rauh, the total amount of unfunded pension and healthcare obligations for retirees that state and local governments across the United States have accumulated is 4.4 trillion dollars.
So where are they going to get that money?
They are going to raise your taxes of course.
Just check out what is happening right now in Scranton, Pennsylvania…
Scranton taxpayers could face a 117 percent increase in taxes next year as the city’s finances continue to spiral out of control.
A new analysis by the Pennsylvania Economy League projects an $18 million deficit for 2014, an amount so massive it outpaces the approximate $17 million the struggling city collects annually
A 117 percent tax increase?
What would Dwight Schrute think of that?
Perhaps you are reading this and you are assuming that your retirement is secure because you work in the private sector.
Well, just remember what happened to your 401k during the financial crisis of 2008. During the next major stock market crash, your 401k will likely get absolutely shredded. Many Americans will probably see the value of their 401k accounts go down by 50 percent or more.
And if you have stashed your retirement funds with the wrong firm, you could end up losing everything. Just ask anyone that had their nest eggs invested with MF Global.
But of course most Americans are woefully behind on saving for retirement anyway. A study conducted by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research found that American workers are $6.6 trillion short of what they need to retire comfortably.
That certainly isn’t good news.
On top of everything else, the federal government has been recklessly irresponsible as far as planning for the retirement of the Baby Boomers is concerned.
As I noted yesterday, the U.S. government is facing a total of 222 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities. Social Security and Medicare make up the bulk of that.
At this point, the number of Americans on Medicare is projected to grow from a little bit more than 50 million today to 73.2 million in 2025.
The number of Americans collecting Social Security benefits is projected to grow from about 56 million today to 91 million in 2035.
How is a society with a steadily declining economy going to care for them all adequately?
Yes, we truly are careening toward disaster.
If you are not convinced yet, here are some more numbers. The following stats are from one of my previous articles entitled “Do You Want To Scare A Baby Boomer?“…
1. Right now, there are somewhere around 40 million senior citizens in the United States. By 2050 that number is projected to skyrocket to 89 million.
2. According to one recent poll, 25 percent of all Americans in the 46 to 64-year-old age bracket have no retirement savings at all.
3. 26 percent of all Americans in the 46 to 64-year-old age bracket have no personal savings whatsoever.
4. One survey that covered all American workers found that 46 percent of them have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.
5. According to a survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, “60 percent of American workers said the total value of their savings and investments is less than $25,000”.
6. A Pew Research survey found that half of all Baby Boomers say that their household financial situations have deteriorated over the past year.
7. 67 percent of all American workers believe that they “are a little or a lot behind schedule on saving for retirement”.
8. Today, one out of every six elderly Americans lives below the federal poverty line.
9. More elderly Americans than ever are finding that they must continue working once they reach their retirement years. Between 1985 and 2010, the percentage of Americans in the 65 to 69-year-old age bracket that were still working increased from 18 percent to 32 percent.
10. Back in 1991, half of all American workers planned to retire before they reached the age of 65. Today, that number has declined to 23 percent.
11. According to one recent survey, 70 percent of all American workers expect to continue working once they are “retired”.
12. According to a poll conducted by AARP, 40 percent of all Baby Boomers plan to work “until they drop”.
13. A poll conducted by CESI Debt Solutions found that 56 percent of American retirees still had outstanding debts when they retired.
14. Elderly Americans tend to carry much higher balances on their credit cards than younger Americans do. The following is from a recent CNBC article…
New research from the AARP also shows that those ages 50 and over are carrying higher balances on their credit cards — $8,278 in 2012 compared to $6,258 for the under-50 population.
15. A study by a law professor at the University of Michigan found that Americans that are 55 years of age or older now account for 20 percent of all bankruptcies in the United States. Back in 2001, they only accounted for 12 percent of all bankruptcies.
16. Between 1991 and 2007 the number of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 that filed for bankruptcy rose by a staggering 178 percent.
17. What is causing most of these bankruptcies among the elderly? The number one cause is medical bills. According to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States. Of those bankruptcies that were caused by medical bills, approximately 75 percent of them involved individuals that actually did have health insurance.
18. In 1945, there were 42 workers for every retiree receiving Social Security benefits. Today, that number has fallen to 2.5 workers, and if you eliminate all government workers, that leaves only 1.6 private sector workers for every retiree receiving Social Security benefits.
19. Millions of elderly Americans these days are finding it very difficult to survive on just a Social Security check. The truth is that most Social Security checks simply are not that large. The following comes directly from the Social Security Administration website…
The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker was about $1,230 at the beginning of 2012. This amount changes monthly based upon the total amount of all benefits paid and the total number of people receiving benefits.
You can view the rest of the statistics right here.
Sadly, most Americans are not aware of these things.
The mainstream media keeps most of the population entertained with distractions. This week it is the birth of the royal baby, and next week it will be something else.
Meanwhile, our problems just continue to get worse and worse.
There is no way in the world that we are going to be able to keep all of the financial promises that we have made to the Baby Boomers. A lot of them are going to end up bitterly disappointed.
All of this could have been avoided if we would have planned ahead as a society.
But that did not happen, and now we are all going to pay the price for it.
It is so sad to watch one of America’s greatest cities die a horrible death. Once upon a time, the city of Detroit was a teeming metropolis of 1.8 million people and it had the highest per capita income in the United States. Now it is a rotting, decaying hellhole of about 700,000 people that the rest of the world makes jokes about. On Thursday, we learned that the decision had been made for the city of Detroit to formally file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. It was going to be the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the United States by far, but on Friday it was stopped at least temporarily by an Ingham County judge. She ruled that Detroit’s bankruptcy filing violates the Michigan Constitution because it would result in reduced pension payments for retired workers. She also stated that Detroit’s bankruptcy filing was “also not honoring the (United States) president, who took (Detroit’s auto companies) out of bankruptcy“, and she ordered that a copy of her judgment be sent to Barack Obama. How “honoring the president” has anything to do with the bankruptcy of Detroit is a bit of a mystery, but what that judge has done is ensured that there will be months of legal wrangling ahead over Detroit’s money woes. It will be very interesting to see how all of this plays out. But one thing is for sure – the city of Detroit is flat broke. One of the greatest cities in the history of the world is just a shell of its former self. The following are 25 facts about the fall of Detroit that will leave you shaking your head…
1) At this point, the city of Detroit owes money to more than 100,000 creditors.
2) Detroit is facing $20 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities. That breaks down to more than $25,000 per resident.
3) Back in 1960, the city of Detroit actually had the highest per-capita income in the entire nation.
4) In 1950, there were about 296,000 manufacturing jobs in Detroit. Today, there are less than 27,000.
5) Between December 2000 and December 2010, 48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in the state of Michigan were lost.
6) There are lots of houses available for sale in Detroit right now for $500 or less.
7) At this point, there are approximately 78,000 abandoned homes in the city.
8) About one-third of Detroit’s 140 square miles is either vacant or derelict.
9) An astounding 47 percent of the residents of the city of Detroit are functionally illiterate.
10) Less than half of the residents of Detroit over the age of 16 are working at this point.
11) If you can believe it, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.
12) Detroit was once the fourth-largest city in the United States, but over the past 60 years the population of Detroit has fallen by 63 percent.
13) The city of Detroit is now very heavily dependent on the tax revenue it pulls in from the casinos in the city. Right now, Detroit is bringing in about 11 million dollars a month in tax revenue from the casinos.
14) There are 70 “Superfund” hazardous waste sites in Detroit.
15) 40 percent of the street lights do not work.
16) Only about a third of the ambulances are running.
17) Some ambulances in the city of Detroit have been used for so long that they have more than 250,000 miles on them.
18) Two-thirds of the parks in the city of Detroit have been permanently closed down since 2008.
19) The size of the police force in Detroit has been cut by about 40 percent over the past decade.
20) When you call the police in Detroit, it takes them an average of 58 minutes to respond.
21) Due to budget cutbacks, most police stations in Detroit are now closed to the public for 16 hours a day.
22) The violent crime rate in Detroit is five times higher than the national average.
23) The murder rate in Detroit is 11 times higher than it is in New York City.
24) Today, police solve less than 10 percent of the crimes that are committed in Detroit.
25) Crime has gotten so bad in Detroit that even the police are telling people to “enter Detroit at your own risk“.
It is easy to point fingers and mock Detroit, but the truth is that the rest of America is going down the exact same path that Detroit has gone down.
Detroit just got there first.
All over this country, there are hundreds of state and local governments that are also on the verge of financial ruin…
“Everyone will say, ‘Oh well, it’s Detroit. I thought it was already in bankruptcy,’ ” said Michigan State University economist Eric Scorsone. “But Detroit is not unique. It’s the same in Chicago and New York and San Diego and San Jose. It’s a lot of major cities in this country. They may not be as extreme as Detroit, but a lot of them face the same problems.”
A while back, Meredith Whitney was highly criticized for predicting that there would be a huge wave of municipal defaults in this country. When it didn’t happen, the critics let her have it mercilessly.
But Meredith Whitney was not wrong.
She was just early.
Detroit is only just the beginning. When the next major financial crisis strikes, we are going to see a wave of municipal bankruptcies unlike anything we have ever seen before.
And of course the biggest debt problem of all in this country is the U.S. government. We are going to pay a great price for piling up nearly 17 trillion dollars of debt and over 200 trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities.
All over the nation, our economic infrastructure is being gutted, debt levels are exploding and poverty is spreading. We are consuming far more wealth than we are producing, and our share of global GDP has been declining dramatically.
We have been living way above our means for so long that we think it is “normal”, but an extremely painful “adjustment” is coming and most Americans are not going to know how to handle it.
So don’t laugh at Detroit. The economic pain that Detroit is experiencing will be coming to your area of the country soon enough.
Eventually the money runs out. Much of America was shocked when the city of Detroit defaulted on a $39.7 million debt payment and announced that it was suspending payments on $2.5 billion of unsecured debt, but those who visit my site on a regular basis were probably not too surprised. Anyone with half a brain and a calculator could see this coming from a mile away. But people kept foolishly lending money to the city of Detroit, and now many of them are going to get hit really hard. Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has submitted a proposal that would pay unsecured creditors about 10 cents on the dollar. Similar haircuts would be made to underfunded pension and health benefits for retirees. Orr is hoping that the creditors and the unions that he will be negotiating with will accept this package, but he concedes that there is still a “50-50 chance” that the city of Detroit will be forced to formally file for bankruptcy. But what Detroit is facing is not really that unique. In fact, Detroit is a perfect example of what the future of America is going to look like. We live in a nation that is rotting, decaying, drowning in debt and racing toward insolvency. Already there are dozens of other cities across the nation that are poverty-ridden, crime-infested hellholes just like Detroit is, and hundreds of other communities are rapidly heading in that direction. So don’t look down on Detroit. They just got there before the rest of us.
The following are some facts about Detroit that are absolutely mind-blowing…
1 – Detroit was once the fourth-largest city in the United States, and in 1960 Detroit had the highest per-capita income in the entire nation.
2 – Over the past 60 years, the population of Detroit has fallen by 63 percent.
3 – At this point, approximately 40 percent of all the streetlights in the city don’t work.
4 – Some ambulances in the city of Detroit have been used for so long that they have more than 250,000 miles on them.
5 – 210 of the 317 public parks in the city of Detroit have been permanently closed down.
6 – According to the New York Times, there are now approximately 70,000 abandoned buildings in Detroit.
7 – Approximately one-third of Detroit’s 140 square miles is either vacant or derelict.
8 – Less than half of the residents of Detroit over the age of 16 are working at this point.
9 – If you can believe it, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.
10 – According to one very shocking report, 47 percent of the residents of Detroit are functionally illiterate.
11 – Today, police solve less than 10 percent of the crimes that are committed in Detroit.
12 – Ten years ago, there were approximately 5,000 police officers in the city of Detroit. Today, there are only about 2,500 and another 100 are scheduled to be eliminated from the force soon.
13 – Due to budget cutbacks, most police stations in Detroit are now closed to the public for 16 hours a day.
14 – The murder rate in Detroit is 11 times higher than it is in New York City.
15 – Crime has gotten so bad in Detroit that even the police are telling people to “enter Detroit at your own risk“.
16 – Right now, the city of Detroit is facing $20 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities. That breaks down to more than $25,000 per resident.
As Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr noted last week, it took a very long time for Detroit to get into this condition…
“What the average Detroiter needs to understand is that where we are right now is a culmination of years and years and years of kicking the can down the road,” said Orr, adding that his proposal should not be seen as a “hostile act” but as a step in the right direction.
Does that sound familiar?
U.S. politicians have also been kicking the can down the road for “years and years and years”.
But eventually you can’t kick the can down the road anymore.
Sometimes it is helpful to step back and look at what we have done to ourselves over the past several decades.
For example, back in 1980 the U.S. national debt was less than one trillion dollars. Today, it is rapidly approaching 17 trillion dollars.
And our debt binge has greatly accelerated under Barack Obama.
During Barack Obama’s first term, the federal government accumulated more debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined.
Isn’t that insane?
In fact, if you started paying off just the new debt that the U.S. has accumulated during the Obama administration at the rate of one dollar per second, it would take more than 184,000 years to pay it off.
The following are a lot more facts about our exploding national debt from one of my previous articles entitled “55 Facts About The Debt And U.S. Government Finances That Every American Voter Should Know“…
#1 While Barack Obama has been president, the U.S. government has spent about 11 dollars for every 7 dollars of revenue that it has actually brought in.
#2 During the fiscal year that just ended, the U.S. government took in 2.449 trillion dollars but it spent 3.538 trillion dollars.
#3 During fiscal year 2011, over a trillion dollars of government money was spent on 83 different welfare programs, and those numbers do not even include Social Security or Medicare.
#4 Over the past four years, welfare spending has increased by 32 percent. In inflation-adjusted dollars, spending on those programs has risen by 378 percent over the past 30 years. At this point, more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government. Once again, these figures do not even include Social Security or Medicare.
#5 Over the past year, the number of Americans getting a free cell phone from the federal government has grown by 43 percent. Now more than 16 million Americans are enjoying what has come to be known as an “Obamaphone”.
#6 When Barack Obama first entered the White House, about 32 million Americans were on food stamps. Now, 47 million Americans are on food stamps. And this has happened during what Obama refers to as “an economic recovery”.
#7 The U.S. government recently spent 27 million dollars on pottery classes in Morocco.
#8 The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently spent $300,000 to encourage Americans to eat caviar at a time when more families than ever are having a really hard time just trying to put any food on the table at all.
#9 During 2012, the National Science Foundation spent $516,000 to support the creation of a video game called “Prom Week”, which apparently simulates “all the social interactions of the event.”
#10 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.”
#11 The National Science Foundation recently 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.
#12 If you can believe it, $10,000 from the federal government was actually used to purchase talking urinal cakes up in Michigan.
#13 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.
#14 The National Institutes of Health recently gave $666,905 to a group of researchers that is studying the benefits of watching reruns on television.
#15 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.
#16 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.
#17 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”
#18 Back 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.
#19 The U.S. government spends more on the military than China, Russia, Japan, India, and the rest of NATO combined. In fact, the United States accounts for 41.0% of all military spending on the planet. China is next with only 8.2%.
#20 In a previous article, I noted that close to 500,000 federal employees now make at least $100,000 a year.
#21 In 2006, only 12 percent of all federal workers made $100,000 or more per year. Now, approximately 22 percent of all federal workers do.
#22 If you can believe it, there are 77,000 federal workers that make more than the governors of their own states do.
#23 During 2010, the average federal employee in the Washington D.C. area received total compensation worth more than $126,000.
#24 The U.S. Department of Defense had just nine civilians earning $170,000 or more back in 2005. When Barack Obama became president, the U.S. Department of Defense had 214 civilians earning $170,000 or more. By June 2010, the U.S. Department of Defense had 994 civilians earning $170,000 or more.
#25 During 2010, compensation for federal employees came to a grand total of approximately 447 billion dollars.
#26 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.
#27 During 2010, the federal government spent $33,387 on the hair care needs of U.S. Senators.
#28 During 2010, U.S. Senators pulled $72,370 out of the “Senate Restaurant Fund”.
#29 During 2010, an average of $4,005,900 of U.S. taxpayer money was spent on “personal” and “office” expenses per Senator.
#30 In 2013, 3.7 million dollars will be spent to support the lavish lifestyles of former presidents such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
#31 During 2011, the federal government spent a total of 1.4 BILLION dollars just on the Obamas.
#32 When you combine all federal government spending, all state government spending and all local government spending, it comes to approximately 41 percent of U.S. GDP. But don’t worry, all of our politicians insist that this is not socialism.
#33 As I have written about previously, less than 30 percent of all Americans lived in a home where at least one person received financial assistance from the federal government back in 1983. Today, that number is sitting at an all-time high of 49 percent.
#34 Back in 1990, the federal government accounted for just 32 percent of all health care spending in America. This year, it is being projected that the federal government will account for more than 50 percent of all health care spending in the United States.
#35 The number of Americans on Medicaid soared from 34 million in 2000 to 54 million in 2011, and it is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.
#36 In one of my previous articles, I discussed how it is being projected that the number of Americans on Medicare will grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.
#37 If you can believe it, Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars over the next 75 years. That comes to approximately $328,404 for each and every household in the United States.
#38 In the United States today, more than 61 million Americans receive some form of Social Security benefits. By 2035, that number is projected to soar to a whopping 91 million.
#39 Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.
#40 When Barack Obama first took office, the U.S. national debt was about 10.6 trillion dollars. Now it is about 16.7 trillion dollars. That is an increase of 6.1 trillion dollars in a little more than 4 years.
#41 The federal government has now run a budget deficit of more than a trillion dollars for four years in a row.
#42 If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.
#43 If you were alive when Jesus Christ was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.
#44 Some suggest that “taxing the rich” is the answer. Well, if Bill Gates gave every single penny of his entire fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for 15 days.
#45 If the federal government used GAAP accounting standards like publicly traded corporations do, the real federal budget deficit for 2011 would have been 5 trillion dollars instead of 1.3 trillion dollars.
#46 The United States already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain does.
#47 At this point, the United States government is responsible for more than a third of all the government debt in the entire world.
#48 The amount of U.S. government debt held by foreigners is about 5 times larger than it was just a decade ago.
#49 Between 2007 and 2010, U.S. GDP grew by only 4.26%, but the U.S. national debt soared by 61% during that same time period.
#50 The U.S. national debt is now more than 37 times larger than it was when Richard Nixon took us off the gold standard.
#51 The U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.
#52 The U.S. national debt jumped more on the very first day of fiscal year 2013 than it did from 1776 to 1941 combined.
#53 Historically, the interest rate on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has averaged 6.68 percent. If the average interest rate on U.S. government debt rose to that level today, the U.S. government would find itself spending more than a trillion dollars per year just on interest on the national debt.
#54 A recently revised IMF policy paper entitled “An Analysis of U.S. Fiscal and Generational Imbalances: Who Will Pay and How?” projects that U.S. government debt will rise to about 400 percent of GDP by the year 2050.
#55 Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff is warning that the U.S. government is facing a gigantic tsunami of unfunded liabilities in the coming years that we are counting on our children and our grandchildren to pay. Kotlikoff speaks of a “fiscal gap” which he defines as “the present value difference between projected future spending and revenue”. His calculations have led him to the conclusion that the federal government is facing a fiscal gap of 222 trillion dollars in the years ahead.
Please share this article with as many people as you can. We are in the process of committing national financial suicide and time is rapidly running out to do anything about it.
Just like Detroit, a day is rapidly approaching when America will not be able to kick the can down the road anymore.
Sadly, our politicians don’t seem inclined to do anything about it and most of the population seems to think that our exploding national debt is not a significant problem.
By the time it becomes clear how wrong they were, it will be far too late to do anything about it.
You are not going to believe how much money is being spent on our former presidents. At a time when U.S. government spending is wildly out of control, a total of 3.6 million dollars is being used to support the lavish lifestyles of former presidents such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton in 2012. For 2013, the plan is to increase that amount to 3.7 million dollars. But do any of them really need this kind of welfare? The truth is that all of them are very wealthy. So what justification is there for giving them so much money? You can see the GSA budget proposal for former presidents for 2013 right here. The 3.7 million dollars for 2013 does not even include the cost of Secret Service protection. Rather, it only covers expenses such as office rentals, travel, phone bills, postage, printing and pension benefits. Certainly it is not unreasonable to grant former presidents a small pension, but should we be showering them with millions of dollars each year? At a time when the federal government is drowning in so much debt, the fact that these former presidents are willing to take such huge amounts of taxpayer money really does make them look like parasites.
So why are these former presidents getting this money?
Congress passed The Former Presidents Act of 1958 because they didn’t want other presidents to end up as poor as Harry Truman did.
Well, these days former presidents are definitely not in danger of ending up poor. But this law does enable former presidents to stick the U.S. taxpayer with some absolutely outrageous bills.
For example, George W. Bush is scheduled to get $1,356,000 from U.S. taxpayers in 2013.
$85,000 of that will be for phone expenses.
He must have a really, really bad calling plan.
Bill Clinton is scheduled to get $1,019,000 from U.S. taxpayers in 2013.
A whopping $442,000 of that will be for office space.
That breaks down to more than $36,000 a month.
I hope that office space is nice.
Perhaps he needs a lot of office space to hide from Hillary.
George H.W. Bush is scheduled to get $879,000 from U.S. taxpayers in 2013.
$63,000 of that total will be going toward “equipment”.
How many iPads does he really need?
Even the old peanut farmer, Jimmy Carter, will be getting $518,000 from U.S. taxpayers in 2013.
But do they even need this money?
Exactly how wealthy are these former presidents?
Well, it turns out that they are very, very wealthy.
Bill Clinton earned an estimated $41 million in speaking fees during the first six years after he left office. He also received a $12 million advance for for his memoir, “My Life”.
George W. Bush earned an estimated $15 million in speaking fees during just the first two years after he left office.
So why are we spending millions to support these guys?
Perhaps this is yet another question that we don’t have an answer to. We can add it to the list….
-Why do chimps throw poop?
The federal government has spent $592,527 to try to find the answer.
-Do unhappy people spend more time on Twitter or on Facebook?
The federal government has spent $198,000 in an attempt to get an answer.
-How do rats respond to jazz music when they are high on cocaine?
Your tax dollars are being spent to get to the bottom of it.
-Does cocaine cause Japanese quail to engage in sexually risky behavior?
The federal government has spent $175,587 to find out the truth.
Right now there are more than 100 million working age Americans that do not have jobs, and this is the kind of nonsense that the federal government is spending money on.
Shame on these former presidents for taking this money.
If our Congress critters are looking for a place to cut the federal budget, this would be a good place to start.
How would you feel if you worked for a state or local government for 20 or 30 years only to have your pension slashed dramatically or taken away entirely? Well, this exact scenario is playing out from coast to coast and in the years ahead millions of elderly Americans are going to be affected by broken promises and vanishing pensions. In the old days, things were much different. You would get hired by a big company or a government institution and you knew that the retirement benefits that they were promising you would be there when you retired in a few decades. Unfortunately, we have now arrived at a time when government institutions and big companies have promised far more than they are able to deliver, and “pension reform” has become one of the hot button issues all over the nation. Many Americans that have been basing their financial futures on their pensions are waking up one day and finding that their pensions are either gone or have been cut back dramatically. According to Northwestern University Professor John Rauh, the latest estimate of the total amount of unfunded pension and healthcare obligations for state and local governments across the United States is 4.4 trillion dollars. America is continually becoming a poorer nation and all of that money is simply not going to magically materialize somehow. So where is that 4.4 trillion dollars going to come from? Well, either pension benefits are going to have to be cut a lot more all over America or taxes will need to be raised dramatically. Either way, we are all going to feel the pain of these broken promises.
There simply is not enough money out there to keep all of the pension commitments that have been made. Something has got to give. In the end, millions of elderly Americans will likely be plunged into poverty as pensions disappear.
Some local governments around the nation are already declaring bankruptcy and are either eliminating pensions or are cutting them very deeply. Just check out what just happened in Central Falls, Rhode Island….
For years, city officials promised robust union contracts and pensions without raising revenue to pay for them. Last August, the math caught up with them. Central Falls was broke, its pension fund short $46 million. It declared bankruptcy.
“My daughters grew up here, went to school here. It’s all gone,” said Mike Geoffroy, a retired firefighter.
He said he could not make the payments on his house after his pension was cut by $1,100 a month.
When will the math catch up with the city where you are living?
For years and years most of our state and local politicians have been ignoring this problem. But eventually a day comes when you simply cannot ignore it any longer.
Check out what Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward said about the situation in his city recently….
“When our annual pension liability is more than our yearly property tax revenues, we have to do something”
Keep in mind that taxpayers don’t get any new services for money spent on pensions. It is money that goes straight into the pockets of retired workers. State and local governments are desperately trying to pay retired workers what they are owed and fund ongoing government functions at the same time, but many have reached the breaking point.
All over the country, state and local governments are going broke. The following is from a recent article by Duff McDonald….
Alabama’s Jefferson County has actually gone bankrupt. Stockton, California is all but ready to do the same. And all you have to do is look to Detroit—or any of the nearby auto towns named after a Buick model of one sort or another—and you see fiscal crisis playing out right now. Look in your own backyard—or at the potholes on your neighborhood roads—and you will likely find the same.
Things are so bad in Stockton, California that they are actually skipping debt payments….
The city of 290,000 that rode the wave of the housing boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s now finds itself littered with foreclosed homes, saddled with pension, health care and other obligations it can’t afford, and unable to pay its bills.
The City Council voted last month to suspend $2 million in bond payments and begin negotiations with bond holders, creditors and unions.
And did you notice what is being blamed for the financial problems in Stockton?
Pension and healthcare benefits.
Sadly, we are seeing pension nightmares erupt all over the nation right now.
For example, check out what is happening to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System and State Employees’ Retirement System in Pennsylvania….
PSERS had an accrued unfunded liability of nearly $26.5 billion, the amount of money the fund is short to cover existing retirement benefits. That hole is expected to grow to $43 billion by 2019. SERS is $12.5 billion in the red, and that shortfall is expected to climb to nearly $18 billion by 2018. Unless the stock market makes giant sustained gains, taxpayers will have to refill those funds.
That doesn’t sound good at all.
In California, the Orange County Employees Retirement System is estimated to have a 10 billion dollar unfunded pension liability.
How in the world can a single county be facing a 10 billion dollar hole?
This is madness.
The state of Illinois is facing an unfunded pension liability of more than 77 billion dollars. Considering the fact that the state of Illinois is flat broke and on the verge of default, it is inevitable that a lot of those pension obligations will never be paid.
In fact, there are going to be a whole lot of broken promises all over the country.
Pension consultant Girard Miller told California’s Little Hoover Commission that state and local government bodies in the state of California have $325 billion in combined unfunded pension liabilities.
That comes to about $22,000 for every single working adult in the state of California.
So where is all of that money going to come from?
But at least most state and local government employees are still covered by pension plans, even if they are failing.
In the private sector, pension plans are vanishing at lightning speed.
According to the Boston College Center for Retirement Research, the percentage of workers in America covered by a traditional pension plan fell from 62 percent in 1983 to 17 percent in 2007.
That isn’t just a trend.
That is a tidal wave.
And many of the private pension plans that still exist are massively underfunded. For example, Verizon’s pension plan is underfunded by 3.4 billion dollars.
So what should Americans do in light of all this?
Well, the number one thing to realize is that the pension plan you have been counting on could disappear at any time.
We live in an economic environment that is extremely unstable, and about the only thing you can count on in this environment is rapid and dramatic change.
Do not plan your financial future around a pension plan. If you do, you are likely to be bitterly disappointed.
Americans that plan to retire in the coming years should do their best to try to fund their own retirements.
Unfortunately, most Americans are not putting away much of anything for retirement. As I have written about previously, one study found that American workers are $6.6 trillion short of what they need to retire comfortably.
Over the next 20 years approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers will be retiring every single day.
A lot of them are going to be blindsided by empty pension funds and broken promises.
We are facing a retirement crisis of unprecedented magnitude, and there is not much hope in sight.
And if there is a major stock market crash, things are going to be much, much worse.
Most pension funds and retirement plans are heavily invested in the stock market. If we were to see a major financial crisis like we saw back in 2008 it would be absolutely devastating. Millions of Americans could see their retirement plans wiped out in short order.
Once again, please do not place your faith in the system.
If you do, you are likely to end up holding a bag of broken promises.
A gigantic tsunami of unfunded pension obligations is coming. A lot of state and local governments are going to go broke. A lot of promises are going to be broken.
If you hope to retire any time soon, you better plan on being able to take care of yourself.
Once upon a time in America, virtually anyone with a high school education and the willingness to work hard could get a good job. Fifty years ago a “good job” would enable someone to own a home, buy a car, take a couple of vacations a year and retire with a decent pension. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. Every single year the number of “good jobs” in the United States actually shrinks even as our population continues to grow. Where in the world did all of those good jobs go? Economists toss around terms such as “outsourcing” and “offshoring” to describe what is happening, but most ordinary Americans don’t really grasp what those terms mean. So what is outsourcing? Well, it essentially means sending work somewhere else. In the context of this article I will be using those terms to describe the thousands of manufacturing facilities and the millions of jobs that have been sent overseas. Over the past several decades, the U.S. economy has become increasingly merged into the emerging “one world economy”. Thanks to the WTO, NAFTA and a whole host of other “free trade” agreements, the internationalist dream of a truly “global marketplace” is closer than ever before.
But for American workers, a “global marketplace” is really bad news. In the United States, businesses are subject to a vast array of very complex laws, rules and regulations that make it very difficult to operate in this country. That makes it very tempting for corporations to simply move out of the U.S. in order to avoid all of the hassle.
In addition, the United States now has the highest corporate tax rate in the entire world. This also provides great motivation for corporations to move operations outside of the country.
The biggest thing affecting American workers, however, is the fact that labor has now become a global commodity. U.S. workers have now been merged into a global labor pool. Americans must now directly compete for jobs with hundreds of millions of desperate people willing to work for slave labor wages on the other side of the globe.
So exactly how is an American worker supposed to compete with a highly motivated person on the other side of the planet that makes $1.50 an hour with essentially no benefits?
Just think about it.
If you were a big global corporation, would you want to hire American workers which would cost you 10 or 20 times more after everything is factored in?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why millions of jobs have been leaving the United States.
Corporations love to make more money. Many of them will not hesitate for an instant to pay slave labor wages if they can get away with it. The bottom line for most corporations is to maximize shareholder wealth.
Slowly but surely the number of good jobs in the United States is shrinking and those jobs are being sent to places where labor is cheaper.
According to the U.S. Commerce Department, U.S. multinational corporations added 2.4 million new jobs overseas during the first decade of this century. But during that same time frame U.S. multinational corporations cut a total of 2.9 million jobs inside the United States.
So where are all of our jobs going?
They are going to places like China.
The United States has lost an average of 50,000 manufacturing jobs per month since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
In addition, over 40,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have been closed permanently during the past decade.
What do you think is eventually going to happen if the U.S. economy continues to bleed jobs and factories so badly?
As the U.S. has faltered, China has become an absolute economic powerhouse.
Ten years ago, the U.S. economy was three times as large as the Chinese economy. At the turn of the century the United States accounted for well over 20 percent of global GDP and China accounted for significantly less than 10 percent of global GDP. But since that time our share of global GDP has been steadily declining and China’s share has been steadily rising.
According to the IMF, China will pass the United States and will become the largest economy in the world in 2016.
Should we all celebrate when that happens?
Should we all chant “We’re Number 2”?
Our economy is falling to pieces and the competition for the few remaining good jobs has become super intense.
The average American family is having a really tough time right now. Only 45.4% of Americans had a job during 2010. The last time the employment level was that low was back in 1983.
Not only that, only 66.8% of American men had a job last year. That was the lowest level that has ever been recorded in all of U.S. history.
Just think about that.
33.2% of American men do not have jobs.
And that figure is going to continue to rise unless something is done about these economic trends.
Today, there are 10% fewer “middle class jobs” in the United States than there were a decade ago. Tens of millions of Americans have been forced to take “whatever they can get”. A lot of very hard working people are basically working for peanuts at this point. In fact, half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.
Things have gotten so bad that tens of thousands of people showed up for the National Hiring Day that McDonald’s just held. With the economy such a mess, flipping burgers or welcoming people to Wal-Mart are jobs that suddenly don’t look so bad.
Right now America is rapidly losing high paying jobs and they are being replaced by low paying jobs. According to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project, higher wage industries accounted for 40 percent of the job losses over the past 12 months but only 14 percent of the job growth. Lower wage industries accounted for just 23 percent of the job losses over the past 12 months and a whopping 49 percent of the job growth.
Thanks to the emerging one world economy, the U.S. is “transitioning” from a manufacturing economy to a service economy.
But it certainly doesn’t help that China is using every trick in the book to steal our industries. China openly subsidizes domestic industries, they brazenly steal technology and they manipulate currency rates.
A recent article on Economy In Crisis described how the Chinese paper industry has been able to grow by threefold over the past decade while the U.S. paper industry has fallen apart….
From 2002 to 2009, the Chinese government poured $33.1 billion into what should be an unproductive industry. But, with the help of government subsidies, China was able to ride export-driven growth to become the world’s leading producer of paper products.
In the same time frame that China pumped $33 billion into its paper industry, U.S. employment in the industry fell 29 percent, from 557,000 workers to just 398,000.
So why should we be concerned about all of this?
Well, just open up your eyes. As I have written about previously, our formerly great cities are being transformed into post-apocalyptic hellholes.
In a comment to a recent article, Trucker Mark described what he has seen happen to the “rust belt” over the past several decades….
I am a product of Detroit’s northwest suburbs and the Cleveland, OH area, where together I lived almost 2/3rds of my 54 years. As a 30-year semi driver, I am intimately familiar with large areas of the industrial Midwest, the Northeast, and even much of central and southern California, and everything in-between. I am also college-educated, in Urban Planning and Economics. What has happened to not just Detroit, but to virtually every city in the southern half of Lower Michigan and northern Ohio is mind-boggling. When I was 18, it was quite common to head over to a car plant and get hired immediately into a middle-class job. At one time I had dozens of friends from school working at car plants, dozens more in other large factories, dozens more in major grocery warehousing and distribution, and me, I was a semi driver delivering to all of those places. Between 1979, when I started driving semis, and now, I must have seen 10s of thousands of factories across just the southern Great Lakes region close their doors. Some of them were small, and some of them employed 10,000 workers or more.
The former Packard plant from your photo closed in 1957, and at one time it employed 12,000 workers, and my roommate in 1982 in Birmingham, MI had been laid-off from the old Dodge Main plant in Hamtramck, which once employed over 20,000 workers, which closed in 1981. In 1970 just Chrysler had over 40 plants in the Detroit-area, and now there are just 11 left open. The Willow Run plant, which at one time turned-out a brand-new B-29 bomber every 40 minutes, and employed 50,000 workers, is long dead too, as is the tank plant north of town too. Even fairly new car plants like Novi Assembly are closed, Pontiac’s ultra-modern robotic car assembly plant too. In Cleveland 100 or more huge old plants stand empty, car plants, steel mills, and machine tool builders, in Akron dozens of rubber plants are long gone, Sharon, Warren, and Youngstown have all lost huge numbers of industrial jobs, Canton and Massillon too, where the NFL started, have been reduced to mere shells of their former selves. Along with the plant closings have gone the hopes and dreams of many thousands of retail operators, restaurant owners, and thousands of other small businesses too. Hundreds of entire major shopping malls stand vacant, as seas of potholes consume local roads. The city of Hamtramck, MI a Detroit suburb of 40,000 people, is bankrupt and has had to layoff all but two employees, one of whom works part-time. The traffic lights are shut-off and stop signs now appear at those intersections instead, as the city can’t even pay its power bill. I could go on & on & on for days but I don’t have the time.
I haven’t driven a semi in almost 2 years as my eyesight has begun giving out early. My last 10 years in the industry was spent delivering fresh and frozen meat on a regular multi-stop route through the Chicago-area and throughout southern Michigan. Between 2001 and 2009, my boss lost 14 of 19 major weekly customers in Michigan to bankruptcy, including three major grocery chains, plus numerous less-frequent customers. The Detroit News reported before Christmas of 2007 a 29% unemployment rate within the city limits of Detroit, with an estimated 44% of the total adult population not working, and another news story reported a 1 in 200 chance of selling a house across the entire metropolitan area, which still has 4 million people total. Since 2003, home prices within the city limits of Detroit have fallen by 90%, and today there are thousands of houses in move-in condition on the market there for $5K to $10K. The suburbs are not immune either.
You know what? Detroit and Cleveland used to be two of the greatest cities in the entire world.
Today very few people would call them great. They are just shells of their former glory.
Sadly, this cruel economy is causing “ghost towns” to appear all across the United States. There are quite a few counties across the nation that now have home vacancy rates of over 50%.
Another reader, Flubadub, also remembers how things used to be….
I am also a product of that generation and remember well the opportunities that existed for anyone with even a high school diploma in those days. Just within a reasonable commute to where I grew up we had US Steel, 3M, General Motors Fisher Body, Nabisco, The Budd Co., Strick Trailer and others providing thousands of jobs that enabled you to provide a decent living for your family. There were also plenty of part time jobs to keep high school students busy enough to avoid the pratfalls of idle youth and afford the 28 cent/ gallon gas for their used cars. Most of it is gone now and I don’t blame the Mexicans or the Chinese for stealing it. I blame the greed of the globalists and their flunkies, the phony free trade advocates in office, who’ve spent the last twenty years giving it all away.
Our jobs are being shipped overseas so that greedy corporate executives can pad their bonuses and our politicians are allowing them to get away with it.
According to a new report from the AFL-CIO, the average CEO made 343 times more money than the average American did last year.
Life is great if you are a CEO.
Life is not so great if you are an average American worker trying to raise a family.
Another reader, Itsjustme, says that things are also quite depressing In New Jersey….
I live in northern NJ in a suburb a very short ride from NYC.
Our region was hit very hard — we once had a very prosperous and booming industrial area; mixed use with many warehouses and commercial buildings, hirise and lowrise.
The majority of companies that were in those buildings are gone. Long vacant; the signage is left and nobody is inside them.
One large commercical building with 15 floors now is home to 2 tenants: a law firm and a Korean shipping company.
It’s very sad what’s happened out here.
The only “companies” moving into these buildings are small change tenants that that are usually Chinese or Middle Eastern; you’ll see them subletting out 2 or 3 offices in these buildings and they operate out of those offices. They’re mostly importers of apparel or soft goods.
My guess is that they are there on very short term leases.
This will benefit our local and state economy not. These groups usually send the money home.
If this is the shape of things to come, we can hang it up right now. No viable companies are moving into our area; if anything new is being built it is retail and service industry garbage, like crummy fast food chain restaurants. No livable wage jobs are entering our local economy.
As I have written about previously, the standard of living of the middle class is being pushed down to third world levels. We have been merged into a “global labor pool”, and what that means is that the standard of living of all workers all over the world is going to be slowly equalized over time.
Our politicians never told us that all of these “free trade” agreements would mean that soon we would be living like the rest of the world.
America used to be the greatest economic machine on the planet. But now we are just another region of the one world economy that has workers that are too expensive to be useful.
In the end, there is not some great mystery as to why we are experiencing economic decline as a nation.
If millions of our jobs are being shipped overseas, it was basically inevitable that we were going to experience a housing crisis. Without good jobs the American people simply cannot afford high mortgage payments.
Today we consume far more wealth as a nation than we produce. We have tried to make up the difference by indulging in the greatest debt binge that the world has ever seen.
We have lived like kings and queens, but our debt-fueled prosperity is not sustainable. In fact, the collapse of our financial system is a lot closer than most people would like to believe.
Things did not have to turn out like this, but we bought into the lies and the propaganda that our leaders were feeding us.
Now our economy lies in tatters and our children have no economic future.