Middle Class Erosion: 33 Million Americans Will Not Travel During The Holidays Because They Can’t Afford To Do So

We have repeatedly been told that the U.S. economy is “booming”, but meanwhile the middle class in the United States continues to be hollowed out.  The financial bubbles that the Federal Reserve has created have been a great blessing for those at the very top of the economic pyramid, but most of the country is still deeply struggling.  According to one survey, 78 percent of all full-time workers in the U.S. live paycheck to paycheck, and that doesn’t even include part-time workers or those that are unemployed.  We have also been told that unemployment is “low”, but the real numbers tell us that there are more working age Americans without a job in 2018 than there was at any point during the last recession.  Most of the people that my wife and I know are struggling, and I continually get emails from readers all over the country that are struggling.  The sad truth is that the middle class is slowly but surely dying, and more people are falling into poverty with each passing day.

And we got more evidence of this fact on Tuesday.  According to one new survey, 33 million Americans will not travel during the holiday season because they simply cannot afford to do so…

Wallet Hub’s Winter Travel Survey has revealed a disturbing trend: 33 million Americans won’t travel this winter because they can’t afford it.

I have been warning about the effect that rising interest rates would have on the economy, and rising rates are being blamed for this travel slowdown.  The following comes from MSN

However, Americans are still feeling the pinch of the pocketbook—part of that has to do with rising interest rates.

“U.S. consumers will be shelling out billions of dollars in extra charges they otherwise could be spending on other things such as travel,” said Mark A. Bonn, director of the resort and vacation rental management program at Florida State University. “This makes it difficult to travel now, let alone after the holiday spending has ended.”

But of course the truth is that most Americans were deeply struggling long before interest rates started to rise.

Those of us in our prime working years can try to work even harder to make ends meet, but when you are elderly and on a fixed income, there is little that can be done.

According to the Sacramento Bee, 9 million elderly Americans across the country “can’t afford to eat”, and in one of their recent articles they featured the plight of 71-year-old Floridian Janet Burke…

Burke is one of the nearly 9 million elderly people at risk of hunger in the United States. In Florida, with the highest percentage of people 60 and older, more than 750,000 elderly need food assistance, according to experts.

The problems confronting the elderly have become one of the hot topics for candidates this election year. Candidates in South Florida have pointed to the needs of the elderly as one of the key concerns voiced by voters.

More than 100 million Americans receive assistance from the government each month, but many citizens do not believe in receiving any help and so they just quietly suffer as they search for a way to make things better.

Today, I would like to share with you a testimony from someone that has been there.  My good friend Daisy Luther knows what it is like to barely survive from month to month, and the way that she described those struggles in one of her most recent articles was extremely poignant

Let’s talk about poverty.

I don’t mean the kind you’re talking about when your friends invite you to go shopping or for a night out and you say, “No, I can’t. I’m poor right now.”

I don’t mean the situation when you’d like to get a nicer car but decide you should just stick to the one you have because you don’t have a few thousand for a down payment.

I don’t mean the scene at the grocery store when you decide to get ground beef instead of steak.

I’m talking about when you have already done the weird mismatched meals from your pantry that are made up of cooked rice, stale crackers, and a can of peaches, and you’ve moved on to wondering what on earth you’re going to feed your kids.

Or when you get an eviction notice for non-payment of rent, a shut-off notice for your utilities, and a repo notice for your car and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about any of those notices because there IS NO MONEY.

If you’ve never been this level of broke, I’m very glad.

I have been this broke. I know that it is soul-destroying when no matter how hard you work, how many part-time jobs you squeeze in, and how much you cut, you simply don’t make enough money to survive in the world today.

If the U.S. economy really is “booming”, then why are millions upon millions of American families struggling like this?

Sadly, it is because the truth is that the U.S. economy is not “booming”, and we continue to get more indications that another major economic downturn is imminent.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Blueprints have been proposed that would mean much better days ahead for America, but most Americans seem quite content with the status quo.

Most Americans seem to want corrupt politicians in Washington, a Federal Reserve system that is bankrupting future generations, an exploding national debt, a deeply oppressive system of taxation and a bloated national government that is becoming more monstrous with each passing day.

In this day and age, “liberty” and “freedom” are seen as antiquated concepts that are standing in the way of “progress”, and more government always seems to be the “solution” that is proposed whenever any crisis arises.

If we truly want to turn America around, we need to return to the values and the principles that once made this nation so great, and right now that simply is not happening…

About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

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Evidence The Housing Bubble Is Bursting?: “Home Sellers Are Slashing Prices At The Highest Rate In At Least Eight Years”

The housing market indicated that a crisis was coming in 2008.  Is the same thing happening once again in 2018?  For several years, the housing market has been one of the bright spots for the U.S. economy.  Home prices, especially in the hottest markets on the east and west coasts, had been soaring.  But now that has completely changed, and home sellers are cutting prices at a pace that we have not seen since the last recession.  In case you are wondering, this is definitely a major red flag for the economy.  According to CNBC, home sellers are “slashing prices at the highest rate in at least eight years”…

After three years of soaring home prices, the heat is coming off the U.S. housing market. Home sellers are slashing prices at the highest rate in at least eight years, especially in the West, where the price gains were hottest.

It is quite interesting that prices are being cut fastest in the markets that were once the hottest, because that is exactly what happened during the subprime mortgage meltdown in 2008 too.

In a previous article, I documented the fact that experts were warning that “the U.S. housing market looks headed for its worst slowdown in years”, but even I was stunned by how bad these new numbers are.

According to Redfin, more than one out of every four homes for sale in America had a price drop within the most recent four week period…

In the four weeks ended Sept. 16, more than one-quarter of the homes listed for sale had a price drop, according to Redfin, a real estate brokerage. That is the highest level since the company began tracking the metric in 2010. Redfin defines a price drop as a reduction in the list price of more than 1 percent and less than 50 percent.

That is absolutely crazy.

I have never even heard of a number anywhere close to that in a 30 day period.

Of course the reason why prices are being dropped is because homes are not selling.  The supply of homes available for sale is shooting up, and that is good news for buyers but really bad news for sellers.

It could be argued that home prices needed to come down because they had gotten ridiculously high in recent months, and I don’t think that there are too many people that would argue with that.

But is this just an “adjustment”, or is this the beginning of another crisis for the housing market?

Just like a decade ago, millions of American families have really stretched themselves financially to get into homes that they really can’t afford.  If a new economic downturn results in large numbers of Americans losing their jobs, we are once again going to see mortgage defaults rise to stunning heights.

We live at a time when the middle class is shrinking and most families are barely making it from month to month.  The cost of living is steadily rising, but paychecks are not, and that is resulting in a huge middle class squeeze.  I really like how my good friend MN Gordon made this point in his most recent article

The general burden of the American worker is the daily task of squaring the difference between the booming economy reported by the government bureaus and the dreary economy reported in their biweekly paychecks. There is sound reason to believe that this task, this burden of the American worker, has been reduced to some sort of practical joke. An exhausting game of chase the wild goose.

How is it that the economy’s been growing for nearly a decade straight, but the average worker’s seen no meaningful increase in their income? Have workers really been sprinting in place this entire time? How did they end up in this ridiculous situation?

The fact is, for the American worker, America’s brand of a centrally planned economy doesn’t pay. The dual impediments of fake money and regulatory madness apply exactions which cannot be overcome. There are claims to the fruits of one’s labors long before they’ve been earned.

The economy, in other words, has been rigged. The value that workers produce flows to Washington and Wall Street, where it’s siphoned off and misallocated to the cadre of officials, cronies, and big bankers. What’s left is spent to merely keep the lights on, the car running, and food upon the table.

And unfortunately, things are likely to only go downhill from here.

The trade war is really starting to take a toll on the global economy, and it continues to escalate.  Back during the Great Depression we faced a similar scenario, and we would be wise to learn from history.  In a recent post, Robert Wenzel shared a quote from Dr. Benjamin M. Anderson that was pulled from his book entitled “Economics and the Public Welfare: A Financial and Economic History of the United States, 1914-1946”

[T]here came another folly of government intervention in 1930 transcending all the rest in significance. In a world staggering under a load of international debt which could be carried only if countries under pressure could produce goods and export them to their creditors, we, the great creditor nation of the world, with tariffs already far too high, raised our tariffs again. The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act of June 1930 was the crowning folly of the who period from 1920 to 1933….

Protectionism ran wild all over the world.  Markets were cut off.  Trade lines were narrowed.  Unemployment in the export industries all over the world grew with great rapidity, and the prices of export commodities, notably farm commodities in the United States, dropped with ominous rapidity….

The dangers of this measure were so well understood in financial circles that, up to the very last, the New York financial district retained hope the President Hoover would veto the tariff bill.  But late on Sunday, June 15, it was announced that he would sign the bill. This was headline news Monday morning. The stock market broke twelve points in the New York Time averages that day and the industrials broke nearly twenty points. The market, not the President, was right.

Even though the stock market has been booming, everything else appears to indicate that the U.S. economy is slowing down.

If home prices continue to fall precipitously, that is going to put even more pressure on the system, and it won’t be too long before we reach a breaking point.

About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

The American Dream Is Getting Smaller, And The Reason Why Is Painfully Obvious…

Over the past decade, an unprecedented stock market boom has created thousands upon thousands of new millionaires, and yet the middle class in America has continued to shrink.  How is that even possible?  At one time the United States had the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the planet, but now the gap between the wealthy and the poor is the largest that it has been since the 1920s.  Our economy has been creating lots of new millionaires, but at the exact same time we have seen homelessness spiral out of control in our major cities.  Today, being part of the middle class is like playing a really bizarre game of musical chairs.  Each month when the music stops playing, those of us still in the middle class desperately hope that we are not among the ones that slip out of the middle class and into poverty.  Well over 100 million Americans receive money or benefits from the federal government each month, and that includes approximately 40 percent of all families with children.  We are losing our ability to take care of ourselves, and that has frightening implications for the future of our society.

One of the primary reasons why our system doesn’t work for everyone is because virtually everything has been financialized.  In other words, from the cradle to the grave the entire system has been designed to get you into debt so that the fruits of your labor can be funneled to the top of the pyramid and make somebody else wealthier.  The following comes from an excellent Marketwatch article entitled “The American Dream is getting smaller”

More worrying, perhaps: 33% of those surveyed said they think that dream is disappearing. Why? They have too much debt. “Americans believe financial security is at the core of the American Dream, but it is alarming that so many think it is beyond their reach,” said Mike Fanning, head of MassMutual U.S.

Almost everyone that will read this article will have debt.  In America today, we are trained to go into debt for just about everything.

If you want a college education, you go into debt.

If you want a vehicle, you go into debt.

If you want a home, you go into debt.

If you want that nice new pair of shoes, you don’t have to wait for it.  Just go into more debt.

As a result, most Americans are currently up to their necks in red ink

Some 64% of those surveyed said they have a mortgage, 56% said they had credit-card debt and 26% said they have student-loan debt. Many surveyed said they don’t feel financially secure. More than a quarter said they wish they had better control of their finances.

You would have thought that we would have learned from the very hard lessons that the crisis of 2008 taught us.

But instead, we have been on the greatest debt binge in American history in recent years.  Here is more from the Marketwatch article

It makes sense that debt is on Americans’ minds. Collectively, Americans have more than $1 trillion in credit-card debt, according to the Federal Reserve. They have another $1.5 trillion in student loans, up from $1.1 trillion in 2013. Motor vehicle loans are now topping $1.1 trillion, up from $878.5 billion in 2013. And they have another nearly $15 trillion in mortgage debt outstanding.

That is one huge pile of debt.

We criticize the federal government for running up 21 trillion dollars in debt, and rightly so, but American consumers have been almost as irresponsible on an individual basis.

As long as you are drowning in debt, you will never become wealthy.  In order to build wealth, you have got to spend less than you earn, but most Americans never learn basic fundamentals such as this in our rapidly failing system of public education.

Many Americans long to become financially independent, but they don’t understand that our system is rigged against them.  The entire game is all about keeping consumers on that debt wheel endlessly chasing that piece of proverbial cheese until it is too late.

Getting out of debt is one of the biggest steps that you can take to give yourself more freedom, and hopefully this article will inspire many to do just that.

To end this article today, I would like to share 14 facts about how the middle class in America is shrinking that I shared in a previous article

#1 78 million Americans are participating in the “gig economy” because full-time jobs just don’t pay enough to make ends meet these days.

#2 In 2011, the average home price was 3.56 times the average yearly salary in the United States.  But by the time 2017 was finished, the average home price was 4.73 times the average yearly salary in the United States.

#3 In 1980, the average American worker’s debt was 1.96 times larger than his or her monthly salary.  Today, that number has ballooned to 5.00.

#4 In the United States today, 66 percent of all jobs pay less than 20 dollars an hour.

#5 102 million working age Americans do not have a job right now.  That number is higher than it was at any point during the last recession.

#6 Earnings for low-skill jobs have stayed very flat for the last 40 years.

#7 Americans have been spending more money than they make for 28 months in a row.

#8 In the United States today, the average young adult with student loan debt has a negative net worth.

#9 At this point, the average American household is nearly $140,000 in debt.

#10 Poverty rates in U.S. suburbs “have increased by 50 percent since 1990”.

#11 Almost 51 million U.S. households “can’t afford basics like rent and food”.

#12 The bottom 40 percent of all U.S. households bring home just 11.4 percent of all income.

#13 According to the Federal Reserve, 4 out of 10 Americans do not have enough money to cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing the money or selling something they own.

#14 22 percent of all Americans cannot pay all of their bills in a typical month.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

As The Wealthy Flock To The Major Cities On Both Coasts, Poverty And Suicide Soar In Rural Areas

America is increasingly becoming a divided nation.  Those with money are flocking to the major cities on both coasts, while many of those that don’t are fleeing to rural areas.  As a result, economic conditions can look vastly different depending on where you live.  In large cities on the east and west coasts that have been heavily “gentrified”, it can seem like times have never been better.  Alternatively, there are certain areas in rural America where it feels like we are in the midst of a horrifying economic depression that never seems to end.  Some elitists derisively refer to the rural areas between the east and west coasts as “flyover country”, and they have little sympathy for the struggles of rural Americans.  But those struggles are very real, and in this article you will see that poverty and suicide rates are soaring in non-urban parts of the country.

A new study that was just released contains some hard data about the “income sorting” that is going on nationwide.  According to CBS News, the study found that those that are moving into expensive cities make much more money than those that are leaving, and conversely those that are moving into poorer cities make much less than those that are leaving for greener pastures…

America’s wealthy households are increasingly moving to coastal cities on both sides of the country, but those with more modest incomes are either relocating to or being pushed into the nation’s Rust Belt, according to a new study.

That’s creating “income sorting” across the country, with expensive cities like Los Angeles, New York and Seattle drawing wealthier residents. For instance, Americans who move to San Francisco earn nearly $13,000 more than those who move away, the study found. Conversely, those who are moving into less expensive inland cities such as Detroit or Pittsburgh earn up to $5,000 less than those who are leaving.

One of the consequences of this phenomenon is that real estate prices are wildly different depending on where you live.  As wealthy people have steadily migrated into expensive cities such as New York and San Francisco, this has pushed housing prices into the stratosphere

The trend may not only hurt poorer residents who are forced out, but also the rich Americans who move to coastal cities. Well-off residents who move to already expensive cities like San Francisco are bidding up real estate prices until property becomes unaffordable for all but the very richest families. Many end up renting — until that, too, becomes unaffordable.

The California real estate bubble has reached dizzying heights in recent years.  Earlier today, I came across an article about a rancher in Marin County that has reluctantly decided to sell his ranch, and he seemed quite sad about it.

So what made him decide to pull the trigger?

Well, the ranch that he once paid $40,000 for is now worth a cool 5 million dollars

Mark Pasternak is a Marin County-based rancher who produces specialty meat products for local shoppers and some of the toniest restaurants in the Bay Area. He bought his 75-acre Devil’s Gulch Ranch in western Marin County back in 1971 for $550 an acre and has been raising pigs, sheep, rabbits and poultry ever since. The farm is a fixture in the local community, so it shocked many when Pasternak announced the ranch is for sale.

He said he’s selling because of the jump in value. The land around his has already been snapped up by wealthy people for private ranches with large homes. The property Pasternak paid less than $40,000 for is now worth about $5 million.

Meanwhile, things continue to go from bad to worse in many rural parts of the country.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly one out of every four children in rural America is living in poverty

According to estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly a quarter of children growing up in rural America were poor in 2016, compared to slightly more than 20 percent in urban areas.

It was a southwestern state, Arizona, according to the report, that had the highest rural child rate of any state, with 36 percent.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the report found the highest concentrations of child poverty, overall, in the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia and on Native American reservations.

These days, most of the good jobs are concentrated in the major cities.  Small businesses and family farms have traditionally been the lifeblood of rural communities, but our “modern economy” has not been kind to small businesses and family farms.

In rural America, times are tough, and that is one of the reasons why the suicide rate is much, much higher in rural areas than it is in the large cities.  The following comes from CNN

The suicide rate in rural America is 45% greater than in large urban areas, according to a study released last fall by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A more recent CDC report said Montana’s suicide rate leads the nation, coming in at nearly twice the national average. A third long-touted CDC study, currently under review, listed farming in the occupational group, along with fishing and forestry, with the highest rate of suicide deaths.

That occupational study was based on 2012 data, when farming was strong and approaching its peak in 2013, says Jennifer Fahy, communications director for the nonprofit Farm Aid. Farmers’ net income has fallen 50% since 2013 and is expected to drop to a 12-year low this year, the US Department of Agriculture reports.

If things are this bad now, what will it be like when economic conditions really begin to deteriorate?

We live at a time when the gap between the wealthy and the poor is exploding, and this is putting a tremendous amount of strain on our society.  At one time the wealthy lived in the “good parts” of our major cities and the poor lived in the “bad parts”, but now the poor are being completely forced out of our expensive cities on a massive scale.

It is most definitely a tale of two Americas, and I don’t think that it is going to have a happy ending.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Housing Crash 2.0? Experts Warn That ‘The U.S. Housing Market Looks Headed For Its Worst Slowdown In Years’

Is the United States heading for another absolutely devastating housing crash?  It has been 10 years since the last one, and so many of the exact same signs that immediately preceded the last one are starting to appear once again.  Back in 2007, home prices were absolutely soaring and it seemed like the party would never end.  But interest rates went up, home sales slowed down substantially, and eventually prices began to crash.  Millions upon millions of Americans were suddenly “underwater” in their homes just as a crippling recession hit the economy, and we plunged into a foreclosure crisis unlike anything that we had ever seen before.  Well, now the cycle is happening again.  Home prices surged to unprecedented heights in 2017, and this was especially true in the hottest markets on the east and west coasts.  But now interest rates are going up and home sales are starting to slow down substantially.  We certainly aren’t too far away from the next crash and another horrible foreclosure crisis, and many experts are beginning to sound the alarm.

For example, the following very alarming numbers come from a recent Bloomberg article entitled “The U.S. Housing Market Looks Headed for Its Worst Slowdown in Years”

Existing-home sales dropped in June for a third straight month. Purchases of new homes are at their slowest pace in eight months. Inventory, which plunged for years, has begun to grow again as buyers move to the sidelines, sapping the fuel for surging home values. Prices for existing homes climbed 6.4 percent in May, the smallest year-over-year gain since early 2017, and have gained the least over three months since 2012, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Those are definitely troubling figures, but perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that mortgage applications are way down right now

Mortgage applications to purchase both new and existing homes have been falling steadily, and mortgage rates are rising again. Single-family home construction also fell and was lower than June 2017.

Of course economic numbers always go up and down, and just because we have had a few bad months does not necessarily mean that disaster is looming.

But when you step back and take a broader perspective on the housing market, it really does start to feel like early 2008 all over again.

In fact, Nobel Prize-winning author Robert Shiller says that this “could be the very beginning of a turning point”

“This could be the very beginning of a turning point,” said Robert Shiller, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who is famed for warning of the dot-com and housing bubbles, in an interview.

Just like last time, the slowdown is being felt the most in the markets that were once the hottest.  In southern California, home sales just fell to the lowest level in four years

Southern California home sales hit the brakes in June, falling to the lowest reading for the month in four years. Sales of both new and existing houses and condominiums dropped 11.8 percent year over year, as prices shot up to a record high, according to CoreLogic. The report covers Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

And as I explained in a previous article, much of this drop is being fueled by a record decline in foreigners buying U.S. homes.

Meanwhile, red flags are popping up on the east coast as well.  New York foreclosure actions have skyrocketed to an 11 year high, and many analysts expect them to go much higher.

If you follow my economics website on a regular basis, then you already know that I have been warning about a downturn in the housing market for months.  As the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates, it was only a matter of time before the housing market really cooled off.  And if the Federal Reserve keeps raising rates, we are going to see home prices collapse, another massive foreclosure crisis, and enormous stress on our largest financial institutions.

This is one of the reasons why we must abolish the Federal Reserve.  By allowing a panel of central planners to determine our interest rates, it is inevitable that artificial “booms” and “busts” are created.

Yes, there are always “booms” and “busts” in a free market economy as well, but they would not be as severe.

In recent months, central banks all over the world have been tightening, and other global real estate markets are really starting to feel the pain as well.  For instance, home prices are really cooling off in Canada, and it appears that they are on the precipice of a full-blown market crash.

When a new recession didn’t hit in 2015 or 2016, a lot of Americans assumed that the threat had passed.  But just because a threat is delayed does not mean that it has been diminished.  In fact, the coming recession is probably going to be substantially worse than it would have been in 2015 or 2016 because of the central bank manipulation that delayed it until this time.

And the signs are all around us.  An indicator that tracks the vehicle buying plans of Americans just plunged to the lowest level in five years, and even USA Today is running articles with titles such as “Are you ready for the next recession? How to prepare now for a potential downturn”.

Yes, we just got good GDP data for the second quarter, but virtually everyone agrees that the number for the third quarter will be significantly lower.  And it would be foolish to ignore all of the harbingers that are emerging on an almost daily basis now.  Just recently, I explained that the U.S. economy has fallen into recession every single time that the yield curve has inverted since World War II, and now it is about to happen again.  We live at a time when there is great turmoil at home and abroad, and the elements for a “perfect storm” are definitely coming together.

It is only a matter of time before the next recession begins, and it looks like it could be a really, really bad one.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Nearly 51 Million Households In The United States ‘Can’t Afford Basics Like Rent And Food’

If the U.S. economy is performing well, then why can’t 51 million households in the United States “afford basics like rent and food”.  A stunning new report that was just put out by the United Way ALICE Project shows that the gap between the wealthy and the poor in this country is perhaps the biggest that it has been in any of our lifetimes.  In some of the wealthiest areas of the nation, homes are now selling for up to 100 million dollars, but meanwhile tens of millions of families are barely scraping by from month to month.  Many believe that this growing “inequality gap” is setting the stage for major societal problems.

In general, the U.S. economy seems to be performing better than expected so far in 2018, but the ranks of the poor and the working poor just continue to grow.  The following comes from CNN

Nearly 51 million households don’t earn enough to afford a monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone, according to a study released Thursday by the United Way ALICE Project. That’s 43% of households in the United States.

The figure includes the 16.1 million households living in poverty, as well as the 34.7 million families that the United Way has dubbed ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. This group makes less than what’s needed “to survive in the modern economy.”

If 43 percent of all Americans cannot even afford “the basics”, what does that say about the true state of the U.S. economy?

Of course the biggest reason why so many American families are struggling is the lack of good jobs.

In America today, 66 percent of all jobs pay less than 20 dollars an hour.

66 percent.

Just let that sink in for a minute.

You cannot support a middle class family on 20 dollars an hour.  As a result, many Americans are working more than one job, and in many households both the mother and the father are working more than one job.

Housing costs account for the biggest item in most family budgets, and the fact that housing costs have just continued to soar is putting a huge amount of financial stress on hard working families.  Just today we learned that there is a tremendous rush to buy homes as mortgage rates rise rapidly

Today, according to the latest Freddie Mac mortgage rates report, after plateauing in recent weeks, mortgage rates reversed course and reached a new high last seen eight years ago as the 30-year fixed mortgage rate edged up to 4.61% matching the highest level since May 19, 2011.

But while the highest mortgage rates in 8 years are predictably crushing mortgage refinance activity, they appears to be having the opposite effect on home purchases, where there is a sheer scramble to buy, and sell, houses. As Bloomberg notes, citing brokerage Redfin, the average home across the US that sold last month went into contract after a median of 36 only days on the market – a record speed in data going back to 2010.

If you will remember, we witnessed a very similar pattern just before the subprime mortgage meltdown in 2008.

History is repeating itself, and we never seem to learn from our past mistakes.

Housing prices in some cities are absolutely obscene right now, and many working families find themselves completely priced out of the market.  That has some people asking one very simple question

Many San Francisco renters I met while reporting an article on affordable housing lotteries had responded to the region’s housing crisis by putting up with great discomfort: They crammed in with family; they split apartments with strangers. Some even lived out of their cars.

Why, lots of readers wanted to know, didn’t they simply move away instead?

Yes, some people are moving, and this is something that I plan to do an article about very soon.

But for most hard working families, moving across the country simply is not an option.  Moving out of state is very expensive, it can be very difficult to find a similar job in an entirely new area, and many families are very dependent on the social networks where they currently live…

People who struggle financially often have valuable social networks — family to help with child care, acquaintances who know of jobs. The prospect of dropping into, say, Oklahoma or Georgia would mean doing without the good income and the social support. Those intangible connections that keep people in places with bad economies also keep people in booming regions where the rent is too high.

In the end, moving is just not an option for a lot of people.

We need to structure our economic system so that it works for all Americans – not just a few.  Unfortunately, it is probably going to take another major crisis before people are ready for such a restructuring.

And such a crisis may not be that far away.  In fact, even Pope Francis is now warning about the dangers of derivatives

In a sweeping critique of global finance released by the Vatican on Thursday, the Holy See singled out derivatives including credit-default swaps for particular scorn. “A ticking time bomb,” the Vatican called them. The unusual rebuke — derivatives rarely reach the level of religious doctrine — is in keeping with Francis’s skeptical view of unbridled global capitalism.

“The market of CDS, in the wake of the economic crisis of 2007, was imposing enough to represent almost the equivalent of the GDP of the entire world. The spread of such a kind of contract without proper limits has encouraged the growth of a finance of chance, and of gambling on the failure of others, which is unacceptable from the ethical point of view,” the Vatican said in the document.

I have written about derivatives extensively in the past, and Pope Francis is 100 percent correct when he says that they are a ticking time bomb which could absolutely devastate the global financial system at any moment.

We don’t know exactly when it will happen, but we do know that such a crisis is coming at some point.

Sadly, most of the population is completely asleep, and they will be completely blindsided by the coming crisis when it does finally arrive.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist.  He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

The $23 Trillion Credit Bubble In China Is Starting To Collapse – Global Financial Crisis Next?

Bubble - Photo by Jeff KubinaDid you know that financial institutions all over the world are warning that we could see a “mega default” on a very prominent high-yield investment product in China on January 31st?  We are being told that this could lead to a cascading collapse of the shadow banking system in China which could potentially result in “sky-high interest rates” and “a precipitous plunge in credit“.  In other words, it could be a “Lehman Brothers moment” for Asia.  And since the global financial system is more interconnected today than ever before, that would be very bad news for the United States as well.  Since Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, the level of private domestic credit in China has risen from $9 trillion to an astounding $23 trillion.  That is an increase of $14 trillion in just a little bit more than 5 years.  Much of that “hot money” has flowed into stocks, bonds and real estate in the United States.  So what do you think is going to happen when that bubble collapses?

The bubble of private debt that we have seen inflate in China since the Lehman crisis is unlike anything that the world has ever seen.  Never before has so much private debt been accumulated in such a short period of time.  All of this debt has helped fuel tremendous economic growth in China, but now a whole bunch of Chinese companies are realizing that they have gotten in way, way over their heads.  In fact, it is being projected that Chinese companies will pay out the equivalent of approximately a trillion dollars in interest payments this year alone.  That is more than twice the amount that the U.S. government will pay in interest in 2014.

Over the past several years, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England have all been criticized for creating too much money.  But the truth is that what has been happening in China surpasses all of their efforts combined.  You can see an incredible chart which graphically illustrates this point right here.  As the Telegraph pointed out a while back, the Chinese have essentially “replicated the entire U.S. commercial banking system” in just five years…

Overall credit has jumped from $9 trillion to $23 trillion since the Lehman crisis. “They have replicated the entire U.S. commercial banking system in five years,” she said.

The ratio of credit to GDP has jumped by 75 percentage points to 200pc of GDP, compared to roughly 40 points in the US over five years leading up to the subprime bubble, or in Japan before the Nikkei bubble burst in 1990. “This is beyond anything we have ever seen before in a large economy. We don’t know how this will play out. The next six months will be crucial,” she said.

As with all other things in the financial world, what goes up must eventually come down.

And right now January 31st is shaping up to be a particularly important day for the Chinese financial system.  The following is from a Reuters article

The trust firm responsible for a troubled high-yield investment product sold through China’s largest banks has warned investors they may not be repaid when the 3 billion-yuan ($496 million)product matures on Jan. 31, state media reported on Friday.

Investors are closely watching the case to see if it will shatter assumptions that the government and state-owned banks will always protect investors from losses on risky off-balance-sheet investment products sold through a murky shadow banking system.

If there is a major default on January 31st, the effects could ripple throughout the entire Chinese financial system very rapidly.  A recent Forbes article explained why this is the case…

A WMP default, whether relating to Liansheng or Zhenfu, could devastate the Chinese banking system and the larger economy as well.  In short, China’s growth since the end of 2008 has been dependent on ultra-loose credit first channeled through state banks, like ICBC and Construction Bank, and then through the WMPs, which permitted the state banks to avoid credit risk.  Any disruption in the flow of cash from investors to dodgy borrowers through WMPs would rock China with sky-high interest rates or a precipitous plunge in credit, probably both.  The result?  The best outcome would be decades of misery, what we saw in Japan after its bubble burst in the early 1990s.

The big underlying problem is the fact that private debt and the money supply have both been growing far too rapidly in China.  According to Forbes, M2 in China increased by 13.6 percent last year…

And at the same time China’s money supply and credit are still expanding.  Last year, the closely watched M2 increased by only 13.6%, down from 2012’s 13.8% growth.  Optimists say China is getting its credit addiction under control, but that’s not correct.  In fact, credit expanded by at least 20% last year as money poured into new channels not measured by traditional statistics.

Overall, M2 in China is up by about 1000 percent since 1999.  That is absolutely insane.

And of course China is not the only place in the world where financial trouble signs are erupting.  Things in Europe just keep getting worse, and we have just learned that the largest bank in Germany just suffered ” a surprise fourth-quarter loss”

Deutsche Bank shares tumbled on Monday following a surprise fourth-quarter loss due to a steep drop in debt trading revenues and heavy litigation and restructuring costs that prompted the bank to warn of a challenging 2014.

Germany’s biggest bank said revenue at its important debt-trading division, fell 31 percent in the quarter, a much bigger drop than at U.S. rivals, which have also suffered from sluggish fixed-income trading.

If current trends continue, many other big banks will soon be experiencing a “bond headache” as well.  At this point, Treasury Bond sentiment is about the lowest that it has been in about 20 years.  Investors overwhelmingly believe that yields are heading higher.

If that does indeed turn out to be the case, interest rates throughout our economy are going to be rising, economic activity will start slowing down significantly and it could set up the “nightmare scenario” that I keep talking about.

But I am not the only one talking about it.

In fact, the World Economic Forum is warning about the exact same thing…

Fiscal crises triggered by ballooning debt levels in advanced economies pose the biggest threat to the global economy in 2014, a report by the World Economic Forum has warned.

Ahead of next week’s WEF annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the forum’s annual assessment of global dangers said high levels of debt in advanced economies, including Japan and America, could lead to an investor backlash.

This would create a “vicious cycle” of ballooning interest payments, rising debt piles and investor doubt that would force interest rates up further.

So will a default event in China on January 31st be the next “Lehman Brothers moment” or will it be something else?

In the end, it doesn’t really matter.  The truth is that what has been going on in the global financial system is completely and totally unsustainable, and it is inevitable that it is all going to come horribly crashing down at some point during the next few years.

It is just a matter of time.