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Hopium: How Far Can Irrational Optimism Take The U.S. Economy?

Thought Bubble - Public DomainIf enough people truly believe that things will get better, will that actually cause them to get better?  There is certainly something to be said for being positive and thinking that anything is possible.  And as Americans, optimism seems to come naturally for us.  However, no amount of positive thinking is ever going to turn the sun into a block of wood or turn the moon into a block of cheese.  Any good counselor will tell you that one of the first steps toward recovery is to stop being delusional and to come to grips with how bad things really are.  When we deny reality and engage in irrational wishful thinking, we are engaging in something called “hopium”.  This is a difficult term to define, but the favorite definition of hopium that I have come across so far goes like this: “The irrational belief that, despite all evidence to the contrary, things will turn out for the best.”  In hundreds of articles, I have documented how the U.S. economy is mired in a long-term decline which is about to get a lot worse.  But most Americans see things very differently.  In fact, according to a brand new CNN/ORC poll, 52 percent of Americans describe the U.S. economy as “very” or “somewhat good”, and more than two-thirds of all Americans believe that the U.S. economy will be in “good shape” a year from right now.  But if you asked most of those people why they are so optimistic, they would probably mumble something about “Obama” or about how “we’re Americans and we always bounce back” or some other such gibberish.  Well, it’s wonderful that so many people are feeling good and looking forward to the future, but are those beliefs rational?

We witnessed a perfect example of this “hopium” on Wednesday.  Sales at McDonald’s restaurants have been in decline for quite a while, and the numbers for the first quarter of 2015 were just abysmal

The ubiquitous burger-and-fries chain said US sales, the largest share of global income, fell 2.6 percent from a year ago for comparable outlets.

Sales in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East region dropped 8.3 percent, helping bring overall global sales down 2.3 percent, “reflecting negative guest traffic in all segments,” the company said.

Total revenue sank 11 percent to $5.96 billion in the quarter to March 31, and net income plunged 32.6 percent to $812 million, or 84 cents a share (-31 percent).

So you would think that the stock price would have tanked on Wednesday, right?


Thanks to news that a “turnaround plan” would be announced on May 4th, McDonald’s stock actually skyrocketed

McDonald’s closed up 3.13 percent after spiking more than 4.5 percent in early trade as investors cheered a turnaround plan expected on May 4. However, the fast food chain’s earnings missed on both the top and bottom lines.

This is pure hopium.  Why don’t McDonald’s executives just tell us what the plan is now?  But instead, the mystery of a “secret turnaround plan” gives people just enough hope to keep the stock from tumbling – at least for the moment.

And of course there are all sorts of other stocks that are being massively inflated by hopium right now.

Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate, I was taught that a price to earnings ratio of more than 20 was really, really high.

But these days that is the norm on Wall Street, and at the moment there are quite a few stocks that actually have price to earnings ratios that are greater than 100

There are 10 stocks in the Standard & Poor’s 500, including industrial giant General Electric, video-streamer Netflix and oil and gas explorer Cabot Oil & Gas that are trading for 100 times their diluted earnings the past 12 months excluding extraordinary items, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ.

And if you can believe it, General Electric has a PE on its training earnings of more than 200

Take General Electric, the industrial giant that’s swiftly selling off banking assets so it can return to its manufacturing roots. GE sports a PE on its trailing earnings of 227, says S&P Capital IQ.

This is completely and totally irrational.  General Electric is a giant mess and is being very badly mismanaged.  But investors continue to pay a massive premium for GE stock because they hope that things will turn around eventually.

Look, hope will get you a lot of things in life, but it won’t put money in your pockets or dinner on the table.

Our politicians and the mainstream media continue to sell us hard on the idea that things are getting better in America, but meanwhile our economic infrastructure continues to decay.  Just check out what is happening in the steel industry

United States Steel Corporation issued layoff notices to 1,404 workers in the latest sign of struggle for the American steel industry. The missives went out in recent days to workers producing pipe and tube products that are used in the oil and gas sector. Job cuts could come as early as June for 17 to 579 employees at a plant in Lone Star, Texas, 166 at a factory in Houston, 255 at a mill in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and 404 managers across the company’s tubular operations nationwide.

Since last June, the company has informed 7,800 employees of potential job cuts, a tally from Pittsburgh Business Times indicated. U.S. Steel spokeswoman Sarah Cassella said the ongoing layoffs are the result of “challenging market conditions and global influences in the market including a high level of imports, reduced prices for oil and natural gas and reduced steel prices.”

A little over a month ago, I published an article entitled “10 Charts Which Show We Are Much Worse Off Than Just Before The Last Economic Crisis” in which I demonstrated that we are in far worse economic shape than we were just prior to the last recession, and now another great economic crisis is at our door.

Unfortunately, most Americans have no idea what is going on out there.  Most of them get their news from the giant propaganda matrix that very tightly controls the flow of ideas and information in this country.  This is something that I explain on my new DVD.  Six colossal corporations control over 90 percent of the news, information and entertainment that Americans consume, and that gives them an awesome amount of power.

And right now that propaganda matrix is assuring the American people that everything is going to be just fine.

Well, they better be right.  Because if not, they are going to have millions of people extremely angry with them when things really start falling to pieces.

10 Charts Which Show We Are Much Worse Off Than Just Before The Last Economic Crisis

10 Charts Economic CrisisIf you believe that ignorance is bliss, you might not want to read this article.  I am going to dispel the notion that there has been any sort of “economic recovery”, and I am going to show that we are much worse off than we were just prior to the last economic crisis.  If you go back to 2007, people were feeling really good about things.  Houses were being flipped like crazy, the stock market was booming and unemployment was relatively low.  But then the financial crisis of 2008 struck, and for a while it felt like the world was coming to an end.  Of course it didn’t come to an end – it was just the first wave of our problems.  The waves that come next are going to be the ones that really wipe us out.  Unfortunately, because we have experienced a few years of relative stability, many Americans have become convinced that Barack Obama, Janet Yellen and the rest of the folks in Washington D.C. have fixed whatever problems caused the last crisis.  Even though all of the numbers are screaming otherwise, there are millions upon millions of people out there that truly believe that everything is going to be okay somehow.  We never seem to learn from the past, and when this next economic downturn strikes it is going to do an astonishing amount of damage because we are already in a significantly weakened state from the last one.

For each of the charts that I am about to share with you, I want you to focus on the last shaded gray bar on each chart which represents the last recession.  As you will see, our economic problems are significantly worse than they were just before the financial crisis of 2008.  That means that we are far less equipped to handle a major economic crisis than we were the last time.

#1 The National Debt

Just prior to the last recession, the U.S. national debt was a bit above 9 trillion dollars.  Since that time, it has nearly doubled.  So does that make us better off or worse off?  The answer, of course, is obvious.  And even though Barack Obama promises that “deficits are under control”, more than a trillion dollars was added to the national debt in fiscal year 2014.  What we are doing to future generations by burdening them with so much debt is beyond criminal.  And so what does Barack Obama want to do now?  He wants to ramp up government spending and increase the debt even faster.  This is something that I covered in my previous article entitled “Barack Obama Says That What America Really Needs Is Lots More Debt“.

Presentation National Debt

#2 Total Debt

Over the past 40 years, the total amount of debt in the United States has skyrocketed to astronomical heights.  We have become a “buy now, pay later” society with devastating consequences.  Back in 1975, our total debt level was sitting at about 2.5 trillion dollars.  Just prior to the last recession, it was sitting at about 50 trillion dollars, and today we are rapidly closing in on 60 trillion dollars.

Presentation Credit Market Instruments

#3 The Velocity Of Money

When an economy is healthy, money tends to change hands and circulate through the system quite rapidly.  So it makes sense that the velocity of money fell dramatically during the last recession.  But why has it kept going down since then?

Presentation Velocity Of M2

#4 The Homeownership Rate

Were you aware that the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen to a 20 year low?  Traditionally, owning a home has been a sign that you belong to the middle class.  And the last recession was really rough on the middle class, so it makes sense that the rate of homeownership declined during that time frame.  But why has it continued to steadily decline ever since?

Presentation Homeownership Rate

#5 The Employment Rate

Barack Obama loves to tell us how the unemployment rate is “going down”.  But as I will explain later in this article, this decline is primarily based on accounting tricks.  Posted below is a chart of the civilian employment-population ratio.  Just prior to the last recession, approximately 63 percent of the working age population of the United States was employed.  During the recession, this ratio fell to below 59 percent and it stayed there for several years.  Just recently it has peeked back above 59 percent, but we are still very, very far from where we used to be, and now the next economic downturn is rapidly approaching.

Presentation Employment Population Ratio

#6 The Labor Force Participation Rate

So how can Obama get away with saying that the unemployment rate has gone down dramatically?  Well, each month the government takes thousands upon thousands of long-term unemployed workers and decides that they have been unemployed for so long that they no longer qualify as “part of the labor force”.  As a result, the “labor force participation rate” has fallen substantially since the end of the last recession…

Presentation Labor Force Participation Rate

#7 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Working Years

If things are “getting better”, then why are so many men in their prime working years doing nothing at all?  Just prior to the last recession, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years was about 9 percent.  Today it is just about 12 percent.

Presentation Inactivity Rate

#8 Real Median Household Income

Not only is a smaller percentage of Americans employed today than compared to just prior to the last recession, the quality of our jobs has gone down as well.  This is one of the factors which has resulted in a stunning decline of real median household income.

Presentation Real Median Household Income

I have shared these next numbers before, but they bear repeating.  In America today, most Americans do not make enough to support a middle class lifestyle on a single salary.  The following figures come directly from the Social Security Administration

-39 percent of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.

-52 percent of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

-63 percent of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.

-72 percent of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.

We all know people that are working part-time jobs because that is all that they can find in this economy.  As the quality of our jobs continues to deteriorate, the numbers above are going to become even more dismal.

#9 Inflation

Even as our incomes have stagnated, the cost of living just continues to rise steadily.  For example, the cost of food and beverages has gone up nearly 50 percent just since the year 2000.

Presentation Food Inflation

#10 Government Dependence

As the middle class shrinks and the number of Americans that cannot independently take care of themselves soars, dependence on the government is reaching unprecedented heights.  For instance, the federal government is now spending about twice as much on food stamps as it was just prior to the last recession.  How in the world can anyone dare to call this an “economic recovery”?

Presentation Government Spending On Food Stamps

So you tell me – are things “getting better” or are they getting worse?

To me, it is crystal clear that we are in much worse condition than we were just prior to the last economic crisis.

And now things are setting up in textbook fashion for the next great economic crisis.  Unfortunately, most Americans are totally clueless about what is going on and the vast majority are completely and totally unprepared for what is coming.

Or could it be possible that I am wrong?  Whether you agree or disagree with me, please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…

Does This Look Like A Housing Recovery To You?

Homeownership Rate 2014We just learned that the homeownership rate in the United States has fallen to the lowest level in 19 years.  But of course this is not a new trend.  As you will see in this article, the homeownership rate in the United States has been in a continual decline for more than 7 years.  Obviously this is not a sign of a healthy economy.  Traditionally, homeownership has been one of the key indicators that you belong to the middle class.  When people define “the American Dream”, it is usually one of the first things mentioned.  So if the percentage of Americans that own a home has been steadily going down for 7 years in a row, what does that tell us about the health of the middle class in this country?

The chart that you are about to view is clear evidence that we are in the midst of a long-term economic decline.  It shows what has happened to the homeownership rate in the U.S. since the year 2000, and as you can see it has been collapsing since the peak of the housing market back in 2007.  Does this look like a housing recovery to you?…

Homeownership Rate 2014

So many people get caught up in what is happening on Wall Street, but this is the “real economy” that affects people on a day to day basis.

Most Americans just want to be able to buy a home and provide a solid middle class living for their families.

The fact that the percentage of people that are able to achieve this “American Dream” is falling rapidly is very troubling.

There are some that blame this stunning decline in the homeownership rate on the Millennials.

And without a doubt, they are a significant part of the story.  They are moving back home with their parents at record rates, and many that are striking out on their own are renting apartments in the big cities.

This is one area where the decline of marriage in America is really hitting the economy.  Back in 1968, well over 50 percent of Americans in the 18 to 31-year-old age bracket were already married and living on their own.  Today, that number is below 25 percent.

But that is not all there is to this story.

In fact, the homeownership rate for Americans in the 35 to 44-year-old age bracket has been falling even faster than it has for Millennials…

In the first quarter of 2008, nearly 67% of people aged 35-44 owned homes. Now the number is barely above 59%. The percentage of people under 35 owning homes only fell five percentage points, to 36% from 41%.

So why is this happening?

Well, it is fairly simple actually.

In order to buy homes, people need to have good jobs.  And at this point, the percentage of Americans that are employed is still about where it was during the depths of the last recession.

In addition, wages in the United States have stagnated and the quality of our jobs continues to go down.  As I wrote about the other day, half of all American workers make less than $28,031 a year.  Needless to say, if you make less than $28,031  a year, you are going to have a really hard time getting approved for a home loan or making mortgage payments.

Things have been changing for a long time in this country, and not for the better.  Our economic problems have taken decades to develop, and the underlying causes of these problems is still not being addressed.

Meanwhile, middle class families continue to suffer.  One very surprising new survey discovered that more than half of all Americans now consider themselves to be “lower-middle class or working class with low economic security”.  While Wall Street has been celebrating in recent years, economic pessimism has become deeply ingrained on Main Street…

Optimism may be harder to come by these days. More than half of Americans surveyed in a Harris poll released Tuesday identified themselves as being lower-middle class or working class with low economic security. And 75 percent said they’re being held back financially by roadblocks like the cost of housing (24 percent), health care (21 percent) and credit-card debt (20 percent).

And that’s not the kicker.

“The most disappointing aspect is that 45 percent think they’ll never get their finances back to where they were before the financial crisis,” said Ken Rees, CEO of the Elevate credit service company, which commissioned the survey. “And a third are losing sleep over it.”

The only “recovery” that we have experienced since the last recession has been a temporary recovery on Wall Street.

For the rest of the country, our long-term economic decline has continued.

When I was growing up, my father was serving in the U.S. Navy and we lived in a fairly typical middle class neighborhood.  Everyone that I went to school with lived in a nice home and I never heard of any parent struggling to find work.  Of course life was not perfect, but it seemed to me like living a middle class lifestyle was “normal” for most people.

How times have changed since then.

Today, it seems like we are all part of a giant reality show where people are constantly being removed from the middle class and everyone is wondering who will be next.

So what do you think?

Is there hope for the middle class, or are the economic problems that we are facing just beginning?

Please feel free to share your opinion by posting a comment below…


What Recovery? Sears And J.C. Penney Are DYING

Sears - Photo by Belus Capital AdvisorsTwo of the largest retailers in America are steamrolling toward bankruptcy.  Sears and J.C. Penney are both losing hundreds of millions of dollars each quarter, and both of them appear to be caught in the grip of a death spiral from which it will be impossible to escape.  Once upon a time, Sears was actually the largest retailer in the United States, and even today Sears and J.C. Penney are “anchor stores” in malls all over the country.  When I was growing up, my mother would take me to the mall when it was time to go clothes shopping, and there were usually just two options: Sears or J.C. Penney.  When I got older, I actually worked for Sears for a little while.  At the time, nobody would have ever imagined that Sears or J.C. Penney could go out of business someday.  But that is precisely what is happening.  They are both shutting down unprofitable stores and laying off employees in a desperate attempt to avoid bankruptcy, but everyone knows that they are just delaying the inevitable.  These two great retail giants are dying, and they certainly won’t be the last to fall.  This is just the beginning.

The Death Of Sears

Sales have declined at Sears for 27 quarters in a row, and the legendary retailer has been closing hundreds of stores and selling off property in a frantic attempt to turn things around.

Unfortunately for Sears, it is not working.  In fact, Sears has announced that it expects to lose “between $250 million to $360 million” for the quarter that will end on February 1st.

Things have gotten so bad that Sears is even making commercials that openly acknowledge how badly it is struggling.  For example, consider the following bit of dialogue from a recent Sears television commercial featuring two young women…

“Wait, the movie theater is on the other side,” the passenger says.

“But Sears always has parking!” the driver responds.

Sears always has parking???

Of course the unspoken admission is that Sears always has parking because nobody shops there anymore.

I have posted video of the commercial below…

A couple of months ago I walked into a Sears store in the middle of the week and it was like a ghost town.  A few associates were milling around here and there having private discussions among themselves, but other than that it was eerily quiet.

You can find 18 incredibly depressing photographs which do a great job of illustrating why Sears is steadily dying right here.  This was once one of America’s greatest companies, but soon it will be dead.

The Death Of J.C. Penney

J.C. Penny has been a dead man walking for a long time.  In some ways, it is in even worse shape than Sears.

If you can believe it, J.C. Penney actually lost 586 million dollars during the second quarter of 2013 alone.

How in the world do you lose 586 million dollars in three months?

Are they paying employees to flush giant piles of cash down the toilets?

This week J.C. Penney announced that it is eliminating 2,000 jobs and closing 33 stores.  The following is a list of the store closings that was released to the public…

Selma, Ala. — Selma Mall

Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. — Arrow Plaza

Colorado Springs — Chapel Hills Mall

Meriden, Conn. — Meriden Square

Leesburg, Fla. — Lake Square Mall

Port Richey, Fla. — Gulf View Square

Muscatine, Iowa — Muscatine Mall

Bloomingdale, Ill. — Stratford Square Mall

Forsyth, Ill. — Hickory Point Mall

Marion, Ind. — Five Points Mall

Warsaw, Ind. — Marketplace Shopping Center

Salisbury, Md. — The Centre at Salisbury

Marquette, Mich. — Westwood Plaza

Worthington, Minn. — Northland Mall

Gautier, Miss. — Singing River Mall

Natchez, Miss. — Natchez Mall

Butte, Mont. — Butte Plaza Shopping Center

Cut Bank, Mont.

Kinston, N.C. — Vernon Park Mall

Burlington, N.J. — Burlington Center

Phillipsburg, N.J. — Phillipsburg Mall

Wooster, Ohio — Wayne Towne Plaza

Exton, Pa. — Exton Square Mall

Hazleton, Pa. — LaurelMall

Washington, Pa. — Washington Mall

Chattanooga — Northgate Mall

Bristol, Va. — Bristol Mall

Norfolk, Va. — Military Circle Mall

Fond du Lac, Wis., Forest Mall

Janesville, Wis. — Janesville Mall

Rhinelander, Wis. — Lincoln Plaza Center

Rice Lake, Wis. — Cedar Mall

Wausau, Wis. — Wausau Mall

The CEO of J.C. Penney says that these closures were necessary for the future of the company…

“As we continue to progress toward long-term profitable growth, it is necessary to reexamine the financial performance of our store portfolio and adjust our national footprint accordingly,” CEO Myron Ullman said in a news release.

Actually, his statement would be a lot more accurate if he replaced “continue to progress toward long-term profitable growth” with ” prepare for bankruptcy”.

It would be hard to overstate how much of a disaster 2013 was for J.C. Penney.  The following is an excerpt from a recent CNN article

It’s been a brutal year for J.C. Penney, its stock falling over 60% in the past 12 months. The company has been losing hundreds of millions of dollars per quarter, and is in the midst of another turnaround effort after ousting former Apple executive Ron Johnson last year.

Overall, shares of J.C. Penney have fallen by an astounding 84 percent since February 2012.  And keep in mind that this decline has happened during one of the greatest stock market rallies of all-time.

For now, J.C. Penney will continue to try to desperately raise more cash from investors that are foolish enough to give it to them, but all that is really accomplishing is just delaying the inevitable.

If you would like to see some photos that graphically illustrate why J.C. Penney is falling apart, you can find some right here.

And of course Sears and J.C. Penney are not the only large retailers that have fallen on hard times.  This week the CEO of Best Buy admitted that sales declined at his chain during the holiday season…

Best Buy shares skid on Thursday after the retailer said total revenue and sales at its established U.S stores fell in the all-important holiday season due to intense discounting by rivals, supply constraints for key products and weak traffic in December.

In the immediate aftermath of that announcement, Best Buy stock was down more than 30 percent in pre-market trading.

And Macy’s just announced that it is laying off 2,500 employees in an attempt to move in a more profitable direction.

So why is all of this happening?

Aren’t we supposed to be in the midst of an “economic recovery”?

That is what the Obama administration and the mainstream media keep telling us, but it is simply not true.

In fact, a new Gallup survey has found that the number of Americans that are “financially worse off” than a year ago is significantly higher than the number of Americans that say that they are “financially better off” than a year ago…

More Americans, 42%, say they are financially worse off now than they were a year ago, reversing the lower levels found over the past two years. Just more than a third of Americans say their financial situation has improved from a year ago.

That is why these stores are dying.

Things continue to get even worse for the middle class.

But a lot of people out there will continue to deny what is happening right in front of their eyes.  They are kind of like that woman over in California who was conned out of half a million dollars by a Nigerian online dating scam.  They will never admit the truth until it is far too late to do anything about it.

So have you been to a Sears or a J.C. Penney lately?

Do you believe that they will survive?

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

33 Shocking Facts Which Show How Badly The Economy Has Tanked Since Obama Became President

Obama Follow MeBarack Obama has been running around the country taking credit for an “economic recovery”, but the truth is that things have not gotten better under Obama.  Compared to when he first took office, a smaller percentage of the working age population is employed, the quality of our jobs has declined substantially and the middle class has been absolutely shredded.  If we are really in the middle of an “economic recovery”, why is the homeownership rate the lowest that it has been in 18 years?  Why has the number of Americans on food stamps increased by nearly 50 percent while Obama has been in the White House?  Why has the national debt gotten more than 6 trillion dollars larger during the Obama era?  Obama should not be “taking credit” for anything when it comes to the economy.  In fact, he should be deeply apologizing to the American people.

And of course Obama is being delusional if he thinks that he is actually “running the economy”.  The Federal Reserve has far more power over the U.S. economy and the U.S. financial system than he does.  But the mainstream media loves to fixate on the presidency, so presidents always get far too much credit or far too much blame for economic conditions.

But if you do want to focus on “the change” that has taken place since Barack Obama entered the White House, there is no way in the world that you can claim that things have actually gotten better during that time frame.  The cold, hard reality of the matter is that the U.S. economy has been steadily declining for over a decade, and this decline has continued while Obama has been living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It is getting very tiring listening to Obama supporters try to claim that Obama has improved the economy.  That is a false claim that is not even remotely close to reality.  The following are 33 shocking facts which show how badly the U.S. economy has tanked since Obama became president…

#1 When Barack Obama entered the White House, 60.6 percent of working age Americans had a job.  Today, only 58.7 percent of working age Americans have a job.

#2 Since Obama has been president, seven out of every eight jobs that have been “created” in the U.S. economy have been part-time jobs.

#3 The number of full-time workers in the United States is still nearly 6 million below the old record that was set back in 2007.

#4 It is hard to believe, but an astounding 53 percent of all American workers now make less than $30,000 a year.

#5 40 percent of all workers in the United States actually make less than what a full-time minimum wage worker made back in 1968.

#6 When the Obama era began, the average duration of unemployment in this country was 19.8 weeks.  Today, it is 36.6 weeks.

#7 During the first four years of Obama, the number of Americans “not in the labor force” soared by an astounding 8,332,000.  That far exceeds any previous four year total.

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

#9 When Obama was elected, the homeownership rate in the United States was 67.5 percent.  Today, it is 65.0 percent.  That is the lowest that it has been in 18 years.

#10 When Obama entered the White House, the mortgage delinquency rate was 7.85 percent.  Today, it is 9.72 percent.

#11 In 2008, the U.S. trade deficit with China was 268 billion dollars.  Last year, it was 315 billion dollars.

#12 When Obama first became president, 12.5 million Americans had manufacturing jobs.  Today, only 11.9 million Americans have manufacturing jobs.

#13 Median household income in America has fallen for four consecutive years.  Overall, it has declined by over $4000 during that time span.

#14 The poverty rate has shot up to 16.1 percent.  That is actually higher than when the War on Poverty began in 1965.

#15 During Obama’s first term, the number of Americans on food stamps increased by an average of about 11,000 per day.

#16 When Barack Obama entered the White House, there were about 32 million Americans on food stamps.  Today, there are more than 47 million Americans on food stamps.

#17 At this point, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless.  This is the first time that has ever happened in our history.  That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.

#18 When Barack Obama took office, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $1.85.  Today, it is $3.53.

#19 Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

#20 Health insurance costs have risen by 29 percent since Barack Obama became president, and Obamacare is going to make things far worse.

#21 The United States has fallen in the global economic competitiveness rankings compiled by the World Economic Forum for four years in a row.

#22 According to economist Tim Kane, the following is how the number of startup jobs per 1000 Americans breaks down by presidential administration

Bush Sr.: 11.3

Clinton: 11.2

Bush Jr.: 10.8

Obama: 7.8

#23 In 2008, that total amount of student loan debt in this country was 440 billion dollars.  At this point, it has shot up to about a trillion dollars.

#24 According to one recent survey, 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

#25 During Obama’s first term, the number of Americans collecting federal disability insurance rose by more than 18 percent.

#26 The total amount of money that the federal government gives directly to the American people has grown by 32 percent since Barack Obama became president.

#27 According to the Survey of Income and Program Participation conducted by the U.S. Census, well over 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government.

#28 As I wrote about the other day, American households are now receiving more money directly from the federal government than they are paying to the government in taxes.

#29 Under Barack Obama, the velocity of money (a very important indicator of economic health) has plunged to a post-World War II low.

#30 At the end of 2008, the Federal Reserve held $475.9 billion worth of U.S. Treasury bonds.  Today, Fed holdings of U.S. Treasury bonds have skyrocketed past the 2 trillion dollar mark.

#31 When Barack Obama was first elected, the U.S. debt to GDP ratio was under 70 percent.  Today, it is up to 101 percent.

#32 During Obama’s first term, the federal government accumulated more new debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined.

#33 When you break it down, the amount of new debt accumulated by the U.S. government during Obama’s first term comes to approximately $50,521 for every single household in the United States.  Are you able to pay your share?

Where Is The Recovery? A Higher Percentage Of Americans Had Jobs Three Years Ago

Where Is The Recovery?If you think that the latest employment numbers are good news, you might want to look again.  In April 2013, 58.6 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  But three years ago, in April 2010, 58.7 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  Well, you may argue, that is not much of a difference.  And that is precisely my point.  The percentage of Americans that have a job fell like a rock during the last recession.  It dropped from about 63 percent all the way down to below 59 percent, and it has stayed below 59 percent for 44 months in a row.  So where is the recovery?  This is the first time in the post-World War II era that the employment-population ratio has not bounced back after the end of a recession.  So anyone that tells you that we are experiencing an employment recovery is lying to you.  Yes, the U.S. economy added 165,000 jobs last month.  But it takes nearly that many jobs just to keep up with population growth.  The truth is that we are just treading water.

So why has the unemployment rate been going down?  Well, it is because the government has been pretending that millions upon millions of unemployed Americans “don’t want jobs” anymore.  In fact, an astounding 9.5 million Americans have “left the workforce” since Barack Obama took office.

Some in the mainstream media have started calling them “missing workers”.  But whatever label you want to use, the reality of the matter is that they are really hurting.  They are part of the reason why food stamp enrollment has soared from 32 million to more than 47 million while Barack Obama has been in the White House.

If you still believe that the employment market is getting better, just look at the following numbers.  The percentage of working age Americans with a job has been sitting at about the same level for four years in a row…

April 2008: 62.7 percent

April 2009: 59.8 percent

April 2010: 58.7 percent

April 2011: 58.4 percent

April 2012: 58.5 percent

April 2013: 58.6 percent

So why is everyone getting so excited over the latest numbers?  When you step back and look at what has happened to the employment-population ratio over the past decade it really is quite horrifying…

Employment-Population Ratio 2013

So exactly what part of that chart are we supposed to get excited about?

Yes, I suppose that we should be thankful that the percentage of Americans with a job has not continued to decline over the past few years.  Unfortunately, the next major wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching and that is going to make our employment crisis far worse.

A recovery was supposed to already happen by now.  Now we are running out of time before the next major downturn strikes.

And things have been particularly hard for our young people.  Even if our young people do go to college, there is a very good chance that good jobs will not be waiting for them once they graduate.

According to Accenture’s 2013 College Graduate Employment Survey, 41 percent of all Millennials who graduated from college during the past two years are working in jobs that actually do not require a college degree.

And a different survey conducted a while back found that 53 percent of all college graduates under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed.

Perhaps you have noticed this.  Perhaps you have noticed that there seems to be large numbers of young people that are living with their parents or that can’t seem to get their lives started.

It is because the economy is not producing enough jobs for them.

We have shipped millions of good jobs overseas, we have replaced millions of jobs with technology, and we have created an economic environment that is murdering our small businesses.

Sadly, the future does not look bright for the American worker.  The big corporations that dominate our society are feverishly trying to increase profits by getting rid of as many “expensive” American workers as possible.  That is one of the reasons why corporate profits as a percentage of GDP are at a record high, but wages as a percentage of GDP are at an all-time low.

At this point there are more than 101 million working age Americans that do not have a job, and that number is going to go a lot higher in the years ahead.

But the financial markets seem to be absolutely thrilled with the present state of affairs.  The latest employment numbers caused the Dow to shoot past 15,000 and the S&P 500 to push past 1600.

Of course stocks have become completely and totally divorced from economic reality, but this does happen from time to time and it never lasts forever.  At some point there will be a rude awakening.

And I anticipated that we could potentially see the Dow hit 15,000 before it finally crashed.  Back in February, I made the following statement…

Right now, everyone seems to be quite giddy about the fact that the Dow is marching toward an all-time high.  And I actually do believe that the Dow will blow right past it.  In fact, it is even possible that we could see the Dow hit 15,000 before everything starts falling apart.

Well, now we have seen the Dow hit 15,000.  But that doesn’t change any of the long-term trends that are absolutely eviscerating our economy.

So enjoy this bubble of false hope while you can.

It will not last much longer.

The Beginning Of The End by Michael T. Snyder

Shocking Numbers That Show The Media Is Lying To You About Unemployment In America

Shocking Numbers That Show The Media Is Lying To You About Unemployment In America - Photo by Larali21Did you know that the percentage of the U.S. labor force that is employed has continually been falling since 2006 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics?  Did you know that the increase in the number of Americans “not in the labor force” during Barack Obama’s first four years in the White House was more than three times greater than the increase in the number of Americans “not in the labor force” during the entire decade of the 1980s?  The mainstream media would have us believe that 157,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in January.  Based on that news, the Dow broke the 14,000 barrier for the first time since October 2007.  But if you actually look at the “non-seasonally adjusted” numbers, the number of Americans with a job actually decreased by 1,446,000 between December and January.  But nowhere in the mainstream media did you hear that the U.S. economy lost more than 1.4 million jobs between December and January.  It is amazing the things that you can find out when you actually take the time to look at the hard numbers instead of just listening to the media spin.  Back in 2007, more than 146 million Americans were employed.  Today, only 141.6 million Americans are employed even though our population has grown steadily since then.  When the government and the media tell you that we are in a “recovery” and that unemployment is lower than it was a couple of years ago, I encourage you to dig deeper.  The truth is that even the government’s own numbers tell us that the percentage of the U.S. labor force that is employed continues to fall and that the U.S. economy is heading into a recession.  The Obama administration and the media have been lying to you about unemployment and about the true condition of our economy.  After you see the numbers that I have compiled in this article, I think that you will agree with me.

First of all, let’s take a look at the percentage of the civilian labor force that has been employed over the past several years.  These numbers come directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  As you can see, this is a number that has been steadily falling since 2006…

2006: 63.1

2007: 63.0

2008: 62.2

2009: 59.3

2010: 58.5

2011: 58.4

In January, only 57.9 percent of the civilian labor force was employed.

Do the numbers above represent a positive trend or a negative trend?

Even a 2nd grader could answer that question.

So how in the world can the Obama administration and the mainstream media claim that the employment picture is getting better and that we are in a “recovery”?

But most Americans believe what they are told.  It is almost as if we are in some kind of a “matrix” where reality is defined by the corporate-controlled propaganda that is relentlessly pumped into our brains.

The only way that the government has been able to show a declining unemployment rate is by dumping massive numbers of Americans into the “not in the labor force” category.

Just check out how the number of Americans “not in the labor force” has absolutely skyrocketed in recent years…

2006: 77,387,000

2007: 78,743,000

2008: 79,501,000

2009: 81,659,000

2010: 83,941,000

2011: 86,001,000

In January, there were supposedly 89,868,000 Americans that were at least 16 years of age that were not in the labor force.

That number has risen by more than 8 million since Barack Obama first entered the White House, and that is highly unusual, because the number of Americans “not in the labor force” only increased by 2,518,000 during the entire decade of the 1980s.

You sure can get the numbers to look more “favorable” if you pretend that millions upon millions of American workers simply “don’t want a job” any longer.  The truth is that if the labor force participation rate was at the same level it was at when Barack Obama was first elected, the official unemployment rate would be well above 10 percent.

But that wouldn’t do at all, would it?  7.9 percent sounds so much nicer.

And of course even if you do have a job that does not mean that you are doing okay.

If you can believe it, in America today 41 percent of all workers make $20,000 a year or less.

To me, that is a mind blowing statistic.  It would be incredibly challenging for anyone to live on $20,000 a year, much less try to support a family.

If you live in Washington D.C. or New York City and you have a “good job” working for the establishment, you may not realize it, but there are tens of millions of American families that are really hurting out there.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either “poor” or “low income” at this point, and most of those people actually do have jobs.

For much more on the “working poor” in the United States, please see my previous article entitled “35 Statistics About The Working Poor In America That Will Blow Your Mind“.

If something is not done, the middle class will continue to disappear and poverty in America will continue to explode.

In a previous article, I noted that during Obama’s first term, the number of Americans on food stamps increased by an average of about 11,000 per day.

How bad do things have to get before people realize that we are living through a nightmare?

Sadly, most Americans still have faith in the system.

Most Americans are still convinced that our politicians will somehow find a way to turn things around.

Most Americans will gather around their television sets this weekend and watch the Super Bowl and laugh at all the funny commercials without even thinking about how America is literally falling apart all around them.

But there is one group of Americans that is acutely aware of how bad things have really gotten.  Small businesses have traditionally been the primary engine of job growth in this country, but right now small business owners all over the nation are facing a tremendous crisis.

Millions of small businesses are on the verge of extinction, and yet our politicians just continue to pile on more taxes, more rules and more regulations.

A recent Gallup poll found that 61 percent of all small business owners in America are “worried about the potential cost of healthcare”, and that an astounding 30 percent of all small business owners in America are not hiring and fear that they will go out of business within the next 12 months.

In a previous article entitled “We Are Witnessing The Death Of Small Business In America“, I detailed how small businesses in America are being systematically wiped out.  Small businesses are dying all around us, and the number of new small businesses continues to decline.

According to economist Tim Kane, the following is how the decline in the number of startup jobs per one thousand Americans breaks down by presidential administration

Bush Sr.: 11.3

Clinton: 11.2

Bush Jr.: 10.8

Obama: 7.8

Is that a good trend or a bad trend?

All of this is so simple that even the family pet should be able to figure it out, and yet most Americans seem oblivious to all of this.  They just keep gobbling up the mainstream media propaganda and they just continue to go out and wildly spend money.

It is almost as if we didn’t learn any lessons from 2008.

Even while household spending in Europe has moderated, household spending in the United States continues to soar.  Just check out the chart in this article.

And guess what?  The infamous “no money down mortgages” are back.  If we wait long enough, perhaps “interest only mortgages” will make a comeback as well.

Unfortunately, I am afraid that time is running out.  we have been living in the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world, and it is only a matter of time until it bursts.

2008 was just a “hiccup” compared to what is coming.  Our politicians and the Federal Reserve were able to keep the house of cards from completely crashing down back then, but they are not going to be able to avert the economic horror show that is rapidly approaching.

I hope that you are getting prepared.  Back in 2008, millions of Americans suddenly lost their jobs, and because many of them did not have any savings, many of them suddenly lost their homes.  One of the most important things that you can do to prepare for the coming crisis is to build up an emergency fund.  If things suddenly go bad, you don’t want to lose your house and everything that you have always worked for.

In addition, anything that you can do to become more self-sufficient and more independent of the system is a good thing, because the system is failing.  The years ahead are going to be much more chaotic than what we are experiencing right now, and when the next crisis strikes you will be very thankful for the time and the energy that you put into preparing.

So what are all of you seeing in your own areas?

Are businesses shutting down?

Are people having a hard time finding good jobs?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

Kitty Scared By Unemployment - Photo by shira gal

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