Those that were predicting that the U.S. economy would be flying high by now have been proven wrong. U.S. GDP grew at the worst rate in three years during the first quarter of 2017, and many are wondering if this is the beginning of a major economic slowdown. Of course when we are dealing with the official numbers that the federal government puts out, it is important to acknowledge that they are highly manipulated. There are many that have correctly pointed out to me that if the numbers were not being doctored that they would show that we are still in a recession. In fact, John Williams of shadowstats.com has shown that if honest numbers were being used that U.S. GDP growth would have been consistently negative going all the way back to 2005. So I definitely don’t have any argument with those that claim that we are actually in a recession right now. But even if we take the official numbers that the federal government puts out at face value, they are definitely very ugly…
Economic growth slowed in the first quarter to its slowest pace in three years as sluggish consumer spending and business stockpiling offset solid business investment. Many economists write off the weak performance as a byproduct of temporary blips and expect healthy growth in 2017.
The nation’s gross domestic product — the value of all goods and services produced in the USA — increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.7%, the Commerce Department said Friday, below the tepid 2.1% pace clocked both in the fourth quarter and as an average throughout the nearly 8-year-old recovery. Economists expected a 1% increase in output, according to a Bloomberg survey.
Even if you want to assume that it is a legitimate number, 0.7 percent economic growth is essentially stall speed, and this follows a year when the U.S. economy grew at a rate of just 1.6 percent.
So why is this happening?
Of course the “experts” in the mainstream media are blaming all sorts of temporary factors…
Economists blamed the weather. It was too warm this time around, rather than too cold, which is the usual explanation for Q1 debacles.
And they blamed the IRS refund checks that had been delayed due to last year’s spectacular identity theft problem. Everyone blamed everything on these delayed refund checks, including the auto industry and the restaurant industry. But by mid-February, a veritable tsunami of checks went out, and by the end of February, the IRS was pretty much caught up. So March should have been awash in consumer spending. But no. So we’ll patiently wait for that miracle to happen in second quarter.
They always want us to think that “boom times” for the U.S. economy are right around the corner, but those “boom times” have never materialized since the end of the last financial crisis.
Instead, we have had year after year of economic malaise and stagnation, and it looks like 2017 is going to continue that trend. The following are 11 reasons why U.S. economic growth is the worst that it has been in 3 years…
#1 The weak economic growth in the first quarter was the continuation of a long-term trend. Barack Obama was the only president in history not to have a single year when the U.S. economy grew by at least 3 percent, and this is now the fourth time in the last six quarters when economic growth has been less than 2 percent on an annualized basis. So essentially this latest number signals that our long-term economic decline is continuing.
#2 Consumer spending drives the U.S. economy more than anything else, and at this point most U.S. consumers are tapped out. In fact, CBS News has reported that three-fourths of all U.S. consumers have to “scramble to cover their living costs” each month.
#3 The job market appears to be slowing. The U.S. economy only added about 98,000 jobs in March, and that was approximately half of what most analysts were expecting.
#4 The flow of credit appears to be slowing as well. In fact, this is the first time since the last recession when there has been no growth for commercial and industrial lending for at least six months.
#5 Last month, U.S. factory output dropped at the fastest pace that we have witnessed in more than two years.
#6 We are in the midst of the worst “retail apocalypse” in U.S. history. The number of retailers that has filed for bankruptcy has already surpassed the total for the entire year of 2016, and at the current rate we will smash the previous all-time record for store closings in a year by nearly 2,000.
#7 The auto industry is also experiencing a great deal of stress. This has been the worst year for U.S. automakers since the last recession, and seven out of the eight largest fell short of their sales projections in March.
#8 Used vehicle prices are falling “dramatically”, and Morgan Stanley is now projecting that used vehicle prices “could crash by up to 50%” over the next several years.
#9 Commercial bankruptcies are rising at the fastest pace since the last recession.
#10 Consumer bankruptcies are rising at the fastest pace since the last recession.
#11 The student loan bubble is starting to burst. It is being reported that 27 percent of all student loans are already in default, and some analysts expect that number to go much higher.
And of course some areas of the country are being harder hit than others. The following comes from CNBC…
Four states have not yet fully recovered from the Great Recession. As of the third quarter of last year, the latest data available, the economies of Louisiana, Wyoming, Connecticut and Alaska were still smaller than when the recession ended in June 2009.
Other states that have recovered have seen their economic recoveries stall out. Those include Minnesota, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota and West Virginia.
We should be thankful that we are not experiencing a full-blown economic meltdown just yet, but it is undeniable that our long-term economic decline continues to roll along.
And without a doubt the storm clouds are building on the horizon, and many believe that the next major economic downturn will begin in the not too distant future.
There is much debate about where the U.S. economy is ultimately heading, but what everybody should be able to agree on is that economic conditions are significantly worse this year than they were last year. It is being projected that U.S. economic growth for the first quarter will be close to zero, thousands of retail stores are closing, factory output is falling, and restaurants and automakers have both fallen on very hard times. As economic activity has slowed down, commercial and consumer bankruptcies are both rising at rates that we have not seen since the last financial crisis. Everywhere you look there are echoes of 2008, and yet most people still seem to be in denial about what is happening. The following are 11 facts that prove that the U.S. economy in 2017 is in far worse shape than it was in 2016…
#1 It is being projected that there will be more than 8,000 retail store closings in the United States in 2017, and that will far surpass the former peak of 6,163 store closings that we witnessed in 2008.
#2 The number of retailers that have filed for bankruptcy so far in 2017 has already surpassed the total for the entire year of 2016.
#3 So far in 2017, an astounding 49 million square feet of retail space has closed down in the United States. At this pace, approximately 147 million square feet will be shut down by the end of the year, and that would absolutely shatter the all-time record of 115 million square feet that was shut down in 2001.
#4 The Atlanta Fed’s GDP Now model is projecting that U.S. economic growth for the first quarter of 2017 will come in at just 0.5 percent. If that pace continues for the rest of the year, it will be the worst year for U.S. economic growth since the last recession.
#5 Restaurants are experiencing their toughest stretch since the last recession, and in March things continued to get even worse…
Foot traffic at chain restaurants in March dropped 3.4% from a year ago. Menu prices couldn’t be increased enough to make up for it, and same-store sales fell 1.1%. The least bad region was the Western US, where sales inched up 1.2% year-over-year and traffic fell only 1.7%, according to TDn2K’s Restaurant Industry Snapshot. The worst was the NY-NJ Region, where sales plunged 4.6% and foot traffic 6.3%.
This comes after a dismal February, when foot traffic had dropped 5% year-over-year, and same-store sales 3.7%.
#6 In March, U.S. factory output declined at the fastest pace in more than two years.
#7 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, not a single person is employed in nearly one out of every five U.S. families.
#8 U.S. government revenues just suffered their biggest drop since the last recession.
#9 Nearly all of the big automakers reported disappointing sales in March, and dealer inventories have now risen to the highest level that we have seen since the last recession.
#10 Used vehicle prices are absolutely crashing, and subprime auto loan losses have shot up to the highest level that we have seen since the last recession.
#11 At this point, most U.S. consumers are completely tapped out. According to CNN, almost six out of every ten Americans do not have enough money saved to even cover a $500 emergency expense.
Just like in 2008, debts are going bad at a very alarming pace. In fact, things have already gotten so bad that the IMF has issued a major warning about it…
In America alone, bad debt held by companies could reach $4 trillion, “or almost a quarter of corporate assets considered,” according to the IMF. That debt “could undermine financial stability” if mishandled, the IMF says.
The percentage of “weak,” “vulnerable” or “challenged” debt held as assets by US firms has almost arrived at the same level it was right before the 2008 crisis.
We are seeing so many parallels to the last financial crisis, and many are hoping that our politicians in Washington can fix things before it is too late.
On Monday, the most critical week of Trump’s young presidency begins. The administration will continue working on tax reform and a replacement for Obamacare, but of even greater importance is the fact that if a spending agreement is not passed by Friday a government shutdown will begin at the end of the week…
Trump has indicated that he wants to tackle the repeal and replacement of Obamacare and introduce his “massive” tax plan in the next week, all while a shutdown of parts of federal government looms Friday.
By attempting three massive political undertakings in one week, investors will have a sense of whether or not Trump will be able to deliver on pro-growth policies that would be beneficial for markets.
If Trump can pull off the trifecta, it could restore faith that policy proposals like tax cuts and infrastructure spending are on the way. If not, look out.
Members of Congress are returning from their extended two week spring vacation, and now they will only have four working days to get something done.
And I don’t believe that they will be able to rush something through in just four days. The Republicans in Congress, the Democrats in Congress, and the Trump administration all want different things, and ironing out all of those differences is not going to be easy.
For example, the Trump administration is insisting on funding for a border wall, and the Democrats are saying no way. The following comes from the Washington Post…
President Trump and his top aides applied new pressure Sunday on lawmakers to include money for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border in a must-pass government funding bill, raising the possibility of a federal government shutdown this week.
In a pair of tweets, Trump attacked Democrats for opposing the wall and insisted that Mexico would pay for it “at a later date,” despite his repeated campaign promises not including that qualifier. And top administration officials appeared on Sunday morning news shows to press for wall funding, including White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who said Trump might refuse to sign a spending bill that does not include any.
And of course the border wall is just one of a whole host of controversial issues that are standing in the way of an agreement. Those that are suggesting that all of these issues will be resolved in less than 100 hours are being completely unrealistic. And even though the Trump administration is putting on a brave face, the truth is that quiet preparations for a government shutdown have already begun.
The stage is being set for the kind of nightmare crisis that I portrayed in The Beginning Of The End. The stock market bubble is showing signs of being ready to burst, and an extended government shutdown would be more than enough to push things over the edge.
Let us hope that this government shutdown is only for a limited period of time, because an extended shutdown could potentially be catastrophic. In the end, either the Trump administration or the Democrats are going to have to give in on issues such as funding for Obamacare, the border wall, Planned Parenthood, defense spending increases, etc.
It will be a test of the wills, and it will be absolutely fascinating to see who buckles under the pressure first.
More than 3,500 retail stores are going to close all across America over the next few months as the worst retail downturn in U.S. history gets even deeper. Earlier this week, Sears shocked the world when it announced that there is “substantial doubt” that the company will be able to “continue as a going concern” much longer. In other words, Sears has announced that it is on the verge of imminent collapse. Meanwhile, Payless stunned the retail industry when it came out that they are preparing to file for bankruptcy. The “retail apocalypse” that I have been warning about is greatly accelerating, and many believe that this is one of the early warning signs that the economic collapse that is already going on in other parts of the globe will soon reach U.S. shores.
I have repeatedly warned my readers that “Sears is going to zero“, and now Sears is officially saying that it might actually happen. When you file official paperwork with the government that says there is “substantial doubt” that the company will survive, that means that the end is very near…
The company that operates Sears, the department store chain that dominated retail for decades, warned Tuesday that it faces “substantial doubt” about its ability to stay in business unless it can borrow more and tap cash from more of its assets.
“Our historical operating results indicate substantial doubt exists related to the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” Sears Holdings said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sears Holdings operates both Sears and Kmart stores.
In the wake of that statement, the price of Sears stock dipped 13.69% to $7.85 a share.
Personally, I am going to miss Sears very much. But of course the truth is that they simply cannot continue operating as they have been.
For the quarter that ended on January 28th, Sears lost an astounding 607 million dollars…
The company said it lost $607 million, or $5.67 per diluted share, during the quarter that ended on Jan. 28. That compared with a loss of $580 million, or $5.44 per diluted share, a year earlier. It has posted a loss in all but two of the last 24 quarters, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
How in the world is it possible for a retailer to lose that amount of money in just three months?
As I have said before, if they had employees flushing dollar bills down the toilet 24 hours a day they still shouldn’t have losses that big.
This week we also learned that Payless is heading for bankruptcy. According to Bloomberg, the chain is planning to imminently close at least 400 stores…
Payless Inc., the struggling discount shoe chain, is preparing to file for bankruptcy as soon as next week, according to people familiar with the matter.
The company is initially planning to close 400 to 500 stores as it reorganizes operations, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations aren’t public. Payless had originally looked to shutter as many as 1,000 locations, and the number may still be in flux, according to one of the people.
Of course these are just two examples of a much broader phenomenon.
Never before in U.S. history have we seen such a dramatic wave of store closures. According to Business Insider, over 3,500 retail locations “are expected to close in the next couple of months”…
Thousands of mall-based stores are shutting down in what’s fast becoming one of the biggest waves of retail closures in decades.
More than 3,500 stores are expected to close in the next couple of months.
Once thriving shopping malls are rapidly being transformed into ghost towns. As I wrote about just recently, “you might be tempted to think that ‘Space Available’ was the hottest new retail chain in the entire country.”
The demise of Sears is going to be an absolute nightmare for many mall owners. Once “anchor stores” start closing, it is usually only a matter of time before smaller stores start bailing out…
When an anchor store like Sears or Macy’s closes, it often triggers a downward spiral in performance for shopping malls.
Not only do the malls lose the income and shopper traffic from that store’s business, but the closure often triggers “co-tenancy clauses” that allow the other mall tenants to terminate their leases or renegotiate the terms, typically with a period of lower rents, until another retailer moves into the anchor space.
Years ago I wrote of a time when we would see boarded-up storefronts all across America, and now it is happening.
Instead of asking which retailers are going to close, perhaps we should be asking which ones are going to survive this retail cataclysm.
In the past, you could always count on middle class U.S. consumers to save the day, but today the middle class is steadily shrinking and U.S. consumers are increasingly tapped out.
For instance, just look at what is happening to delinquency rates on auto loans…
US auto loan and lease credit loss rates weakened in the second half of 2016, according to a new report from Fitch Ratings, which said they will continue to deteriorate.
“Subprime credit losses are accelerating faster than the prime segment, and this trend is likely to continue as a result of looser underwriting standards by lenders in recent years,” said Michael Taiano, a director at Fitch.
The last time so many Americans got behind on subprime auto loans was during the last financial crisis.
We are seeing so many similarities to what happened just prior to the last recession, and yet most Americans still seem to think that the U.S. economy is going to be just fine in 2017.
Unfortunately, major red flags are popping up in the hard economic numbers and in the financial markets.
The last recession probably should have started back in late 2015, but thanks to manipulation by the Fed and an unprecedented debt binge by the Obama administration, official U.S. GDP growth has been able to stay barely above zero for the last year and a half.
But just because something is delayed does not mean that it is canceled.
All along, our long-term economic imbalances have continued to get even worse, and a date with destiny is rapidly approaching for the U.S. economy.
J.C. Penney and Family Christian Stores are the latest retail giants to announce widespread store closings. As you will see below, J.C. Penney plans to close between 130 and 140 stores, and Family Christian is closing all of their 240 stores. In recent months the stock market has been absolutely soaring, and so most people have simply assumed that the “real economy” must be doing well. But that is not the case at all. In fact, the retail apocalypse that I have been documenting for quite some time appears to be gaining momentum.
J.C. Penney is not in as rough shape as Sears is just yet, but it is definitely on a similar trajectory. In the end, they are both headed for bankruptcy. That is why it wasn’t too much of a surprise when J.C. Penney announced that they are getting rid of about 6,000 workers and closing at least 130 stores…
J.C. Penney (JCP) plans to close 130 to 140 stores and offer buyouts to 6,000 workers as the department-store industry sags in competition with online sellers and nimble niche retailers.
The company said Friday that it would shutter 13% to 14% of its locations and introduce new goods and services aimed at the shifting preferences of its customer base.
Meanwhile, many observers were quite surprised when Family Christian Stores decided to fold up shop for good. They were known as the largest Christian retailer on the entire planet, but now after 85 years they are going out of business forever…
Family Christian, which bills itself as the “world’s largest retailer of Christian-themed merchandise,” announced Thursday it is closing after 85 years.
The non-profit company, employing more than 3,000 people in 240 stores in 36 states, said in a brief statement that the retailer had been facing declining sales since filing for bankruptcy protection in 2015 and had no choice but to shut down.
These two announcements are part of larger trend that we have been witnessing all over the country. As I have documented previously, Macy’s announced that it would be closing 100 stores earlier this year, and about the same time Sears said that it would be closing another 150 stores.
Back in 2010, Sears had a staggering 3,555 stores.
Before their recent announcement, Sears was down to 1,503 stores, and now this latest round of cuts will leave them with somewhere around 1,350.
Of course it won’t be too long before Sears has zero stores, and my regular readers know that I have been talking about the demise of Sears for a very long time.
The cold, hard truth of the matter is that the “real economy” is a total mess, and that is one of the primary reasons why these ridiculous stock market valuations that we are seeing right now are not sustainable.
One expert that agrees with my assessment is former Reagan Administration White House Budget Director David Stockman. In a recent interview, he explained why he believes that “everything will grind to a halt” after March 15th…
Stockman, who wrote a book titled “Trumped” predicting a Trump victory in 2016, says, “I don’t think there is a snowball’s chance in the hot place that’s going to happen. This is delusional. This is the greatest suckers’ rally of all time. It is based on pure hopium and not any analysis at all as what it will take to push through a big tax cut. Donald Trump is in a trap. Today the debt is $20 trillion. It’s 106% of GDP. . . .Trump is inheriting a built-in deficit of $10 trillion over the next decade under current policies that are built in. Yet, he wants more defense spending, not less. He wants drastic sweeping tax cuts for corporations and individuals. He wants to spend more money on border security and law enforcement. He’s going to do more for the veterans. He wants this big trillion dollar infrastructure program. You put all that together and it’s madness. It doesn’t even begin to add up, and it won’t happen when you are struggling with the $10 trillion of debt that’s coming down the pike and the $20 trillion that’s already on the books.”
Then, Stockman drops this bomb and says:
“I think what people are missing is this date, March 15th 2017. That’s the day that this debt ceiling holiday that Obama and Boehner put together right before the last election in October of 2015. That holiday expires. The debt ceiling will freeze in at $20 trillion. It will then be law. It will be a hard stop. The Treasury will have roughly $200 billion in cash. We are burning cash at a $75 billion a month rate. By summer, they will be out of cash. Then we will be in the mother of all debt ceiling crises. Everything will grind to a halt. I think we will have a government shutdown. There will not be Obama Care repeal and replace. There will be no tax cut. There will be no infrastructure stimulus. There will be just one giant fiscal bloodbath over a debt ceiling that has to be increased and no one wants to vote for.”
In that same interview, Stockman also predicted that “markets will easily correct by 20% and probably a lot more“, and he noted the glaring disconnect between current stock prices and how the U.S. economy is actually performing…
“The S&P 500 has been trading at 26 times earnings while earnings have been dropping for the past six or seven quarters. There is no booming recovery coming. There is going to be a recession and there will be no stimulus baton to bail it out. That is the new fact that neither Trump nor the Wall Street gamblers remotely understand.”
It is very difficult to argue with Stockman on this.
There are some people out there that seem to think that Donald Trump can miraculously turn the U.S. economy around just because he is Donald Trump.
It doesn’t work that way.
We are 20 trillion dollars in debt, and we are currently adding about a trillion dollars a year to that total. There is no possible way that Trump can cut taxes, increase military spending, build a border wall, spend much more on veterans and spend an extra trillion dollars on rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.
We are flat broke as a nation and there simply is not money available to do everything that Donald Trump wants to do.
So we shall see what happens after March 15th. Unfortunately, I happen to agree with Stockman that economic reality is about to come knocking and Trump and his supporters are about to get a very rude wake up call.
If the U.S. economy is getting better, then why are major retail chains closing thousands of stores? If we truly are in an “economic recovery”, then why do sales figures continue to go down for large retailers all over the country? Without a doubt, the rise of Internet retailing giants such as Amazon.com have had a huge impact. Today, there are millions of Americans that actually prefer to shop online. Personally, when I published my novel I made it solely available on Amazon. But Internet shopping alone does not account for the great retail apocalypse that we are witnessing. In fact, some retail experts estimate that the Internet has accounted for only about 20 percent of the decline that we are seeing. Most of the rest of it can be accounted for by the slow, steady death of the middle class U.S. consumer. Median household income has declined for five years in a row, but all of our bills just keep going up. That means that the amount of disposable income that average Americans have continues to shrink, and that is really bad news for retailers.
And sadly, this is just the beginning. Retail experts are projecting that the pace of store closings will actually accelerate over the course of the next decade.
So as you read this list below, please take note that things will soon get even worse.
The following are 20 facts about the great U.S. retail apocalypse that will blow your mind…
#1 As you read this article, approximately a billion square feet of retail space is sitting vacant in the United States.
#2 Last week, Radio Shack announced that it was going to close more than a thousand stores.
#3 Last week, Staples announced that it was going to close 225 stores.
#4 Same-store sales at Office Depot have declined for 13 quarters in a row.
#5 J.C. Penney has been dying for years, and it recently announced plans to close 33 more stores.
#6 J.C. Penney lost 586 million dollars during the second quarter of 2013 alone.
#7 Sears has closed about 300 stores since 2010, and CNN is reporting that Sears is “expected to shutter another 500 Sears and Kmart locations soon”.
#8 Overall, sales numbers have declined at Sears for 27 quarters in a row.
#9 Target has announced that it is going to eliminate 475 jobs and not fill 700 positions that are currently empty.
#10 It is being projected that Aéropostale will close about 175 stores over the next couple of years.
#11 Macy’s has announced that it is going to be closing five stores and eliminating 2,500 jobs.
#12 The Children’s Place has announced that it will be closing down 125 of its “weakest” stores by 2016.
#13 Best Buy recently shut down about 50 stores up in Canada.
#14 Video rental giant Blockbuster has completely shut down all of their stores.
#15 It is being projected that sales at U.S. supermarkets will decline by 1.7 percent this year even as the overall population continues to grow.
#16 McDonald’s has reported that sales at established U.S. locations were down 3.3 percent in January.
#17 A home appliance chain known as “American TV” in the Midwest is going to be shutting down all 11 stores.
#18 Even Wal-Mart is struggling right now. Just check out what one very prominent Wal-Mart executive recently admitted…
David Cheesewright, CEO of Walmart International was speaking at the same presentation, and he pointed out that Walmart would try to protect its market share in the US – where the company had just issued an earnings warning. But most of the growth would have to come from its units outside the US. I mean, via these share buybacks?
Alas, outside the US too, economies were limping along at best, and consumers were struggling and the operating environment was tough. “We’re seeing economies under stress pretty much everywhere we operate,” Cheesewright admitted.
#19 In a recent CNBC article entitled “Time to close Wal-Mart stores? Analysts think so“, it was recommended that Wal-Mart should close approximately 100 “underperforming” supercenters in rural locations across America.
#20 Retail consultant Howard Davidowitz is projecting that up to half of all shopping malls in America may shut down within the next 15 to 20 years…
Within 15 to 20 years, retail consultant Howard Davidowitz expects as many as half of America’s shopping malls to fail. He predicts that only upscale shopping centers with anchors like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus will survive.
So is there any hope that things will turn around?
Well, if the U.S. economy started producing large numbers of good paying middle class jobs there would definitely be cause for optimism.
Unfortunately, that is just not happening.
On Friday, we were told that the U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs during the month of February.
That sounds pretty good until you realize that it takes almost that many jobs each month just to keep up with population growth.
And according to CNS News, the number of unemployed Americans actually grew faster than the number of employed Americans in February…
The number of unemployed individuals 16 years and over increased by 223,000 in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
In February, there were 10,459,000 unemployed individuals age 16 and over, which was up 223,000 from January, when there were 10,236,000 unemployed individuals.
Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate continues to sit at a 35 year low, and a staggering 70 percent of all Americans not in the labor force are below the age of 55.
That is outrageous.
And things look particularly depressing when you look at the labor force participation rate for men by themselves.
In 1950, the labor force participation rate for men was sitting at about 87 percent. Today, it has dropped beneath 70 percent to a brand new all-time record low.
The truth is that there simply are not enough jobs for everyone anymore.
The chart posted below shows how the percentage of working age Americans that actually have a job has changed since the turn of the millennium. As you can see, the employment-population ratio declined precipitously during the last recession, and it has stayed below 59 percent since late 2009…
If we were going to have a “recovery”, we should have had one by now.
Since there are not enough jobs, what is happening is that more highly educated workers are taking the jobs that were once occupied by less educated workers and bumping them out of the labor force entirely. The following is an excerpt from a recent Bloomberg article…
Recent college graduates are ending up in more low-wage and part-time positions as it’s become harder to find education-level appropriate jobs, according to a January study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The share of Americans ages 22 to 27 with at least a bachelor’s degree in jobs that don’t require that level of education was 44 percent in 2012, up from 34 percent in 2001, the study found.
Due to the fact that there are not enough middle class jobs to go around, the middle class has been steadily shrinking.
In 2008, 53 percent of all Americans considered themselves to be “middle class”. Today, only 44 percent of all Americans consider themselves to be “middle class”.
That is a pretty significant shift in just six years, don’t you think?
For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “28 Signs That The Middle Class Is Heading Toward Extinction“.
Despite what the politicians and the mainstream media are telling you, the truth is that something is fundamentally wrong with our economy.
On a gut level, most people realize this.
According to one recent survey, only 35 percent of all Americans say that they are better off financially than they were a year ago. And according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 28 percent of all Americans believe that this country is moving in the right direction.
The frightening thing is that this is about as good as things are going to get. The next great wave of the economic collapse is approaching, and when it strikes the plight of the middle class is going to get a whole lot worse.
Is “discretionary income” rapidly becoming a thing of the past for most American families? Right now, there are a lot of signs that we are on the verge of a nightmarish consumer spending drought. Incomes are down, taxes are up, many large retail chains are deeply struggling because of the lack of customers, and at this point nearly a quarter of all Americans have more credit card debt than money in the bank. Considering the fact that consumer spending is such a large percentage of the U.S. economy, that is very bad news. How will we ever have a sustained economic recovery if consumers don’t have much money to spend? Well, the truth is that we aren’t ever going to have a sustained economic recovery. In fact, this debt-fueled bubble of false hope that we are experiencing right now is as good as things are going to get. Things are going to go downhill from here, and if you think that consumer spending is bad now, just wait until you see what happens over the next several years.
Even though the Dow is surging toward a record high right now, everyone knows that things are not good for the middle class. A recent quote from CPA Howard Dvorkin kind of summarizes our current state of affairs very nicely…
“The fact of the matter is that America is broke — whether it’s mortgages, student loans or credit cards, we are broke. The old rule of thumb is that people should have six months’ of savings,” Dvorkin says.”If you talk to people, most don’t have two pennies.”
These days most Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck, and thanks to rising prices and rising taxes, those paychecks are getting squeezed tighter and tighter. Many families have had to cut back on unnecessary expenses, and some families no longer have any discretionary income at all.
The following are 16 signs that the middle class is rapidly running out of money…
#1 According to one brand new survey, 24 percent of all Americans have more credit card debt than money in the bank.
#2 J.C. Penney was once an unstoppable retail powerhouse, but now J.C. Penney has just posted its lowest annual retail sales in more than 20 years…
J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) slid the most in more than three decades after the department-store chain lost $4.3 billion in sales in the first year of Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson’s turnaround plan.
The shares fell 18 percent to $17.40 at 11:28 a.m. in New York after earlier declining 22 percent, the biggest intraday drop since at least 1980, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. J.C. Penney yesterday said its net loss in the quarter ended Feb. 2 widened to $552 million from $87 million a year earlier. The Plano, Texas-based retailer’s annual revenue slid 25 percent to $13 billion, the lowest since at least 1987.
How much worse can things get? At this point the decline has become so steep for J.C. Penney that Jim Cramer of CNBC is declaring that they are in “a true tailspin“.
#3 In the United States today, a new car has become out of reach for most middle class Americans according to the 2013 Car Affordability Study…
Looking to buy a new car, truck or crossover? You may find it more difficult to stretch the household budget than you expected, according to a new study that finds median-income families in only one major U.S. city actually can afford the typical new vehicle.
The typical new vehicle is now more expensive than ever, averaging $30,500 in 2012, according to TrueCar.com data, and heading up again as makers curb the incentives that helped make their products more affordable during the recession when they were desperate for sales. According to the 2013 Car Affordability Study by Interest.com, only in Washington could the typical household swing the payments, the median income there running $86,680 a year.
#4 The founder of Subway Restaurants, Fred Deluca, says that the recent tax increases are having a noticeable impact on his business…
“The payroll tax is affecting sales. It’s causing sales declines,” he said, estimating a decline of about 2 percentage points off sales at his restaurants. “There are a lot of pressures on consumers,” Deluca said, adding “I think this is on the permanent side, but I think business will adjust to it.”
#5 Many other large restaurant chains are also struggling in this tough economic environment…
Darden Restaurants, which owns the casual dining chains Oliver Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster, said blended same-store sales at its three eateries would be 4.5 percent lower during its fiscal third quarter.
Clarence Otis, Darden’s chairman and chief executive, said that “while results midway through the third quarter were encouraging, there were difficult macro-economic headwinds during the last month of the quarter.”
“Two of the most prominent were increased payroll taxes and rising gasoline prices, which together put meaningful pressure on the discretionary purchasing power of our guests,” he added.
#6 The CFO of Family Dollar recently admitted to CNBC that this is a “challenging time” because of reduced consumer spending…
At Family Dollar where the average customer makes less than $40,000 a year, the combination of a two-percent hike in the payroll tax, rising gas prices and delayed tax refunds has created a “challenging time and an uncertain time for the consumer right now,” said Mary Winston, the company’s chief financial officer.
“In our case, anything that takes money out of our customer’s wallet gives them less money to spend in our stores,” she told CNBC. “So I think all of those things create nervousness for the consumer, and I think there are sometimes political dynamics going on that they might not even fully understand the details, but they know it’s not good.”
#7 Even Wal-Mart is really struggling right now. According to a recent Bloomberg article, Wal-Mart is struggling “to restock store shelves as U.S. sales slump“…
Evelin Cruz, a department manager at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pico Rivera, California, said Simon’s comments from the officers’ meeting were “dead on.”
“There are gaps where merchandise is missing,” Cruz said in a telephone interview. “We are not talking about a couple of empty shelves. This is throughout the store in every store. Some places look like they’re going out of business.”
This all comes on the heels of an internal Wal-Mart memo that was leaked to the press earlier this month that described February sales as a “total disaster”.
#8 Electronics retailer Best Buy continues to struggle mightily. Best Buy just announced that it will be eliminating 400 jobs at its headquarters in Richfield, Minnesota.
#9 It is being projected that many of the largest retail chains in America, including Best Buy, will close down hundreds of stores during 2013. The following is a list of projected store closings for 2013 that I included in a previous article…
Forecast store closings: 200 to 250
Sears Holding Corp.
Forecast store closings: Kmart 175 to 225, Sears 100 to 125
Forecast store closings: 300 to 350
Forecast store closings: 125 to 150
Barnes & Noble
Forecast store closings: 190 to 240, per company comments
Forecast store closings: 500 to 600
Forecast store closings: 150 to 175
Forecast store closings: 450 to 550
#10 Another sign that consumer spending is slowing down is the fact that less stuff is being moved around in our economy. As I have mentioned previously, freight shipment volumes have hit their lowest level in two years, and freight expenditures have gone negative for the first time since the last recession.
#11 Many young adults have no discretionary income to spend because they are absolutely drowning in student loan debt. According to the New York Federal Reserve, student loan debt nearly tripled between 2004 and 2012.
#12 The student loan delinquency rate in the United States is now at an all-time high. It is only a matter of time before the student loan debt bubble bursts.
#13 Due to a lack of jobs and high levels of debt, poverty among young adults in America is absolutely exploding. Today, U.S. families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.
#14 According to one recent survey, 62 percent of all middle class Americans say that they have had to reduce household spending over the past year.
#15 Median household income in the United States has fallen for four consecutive years. Overall, it has declined by more than $4000 during that time span.
#16 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is currently taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.
Are you starting to get the picture?
Retailers are desperate for sales, but you can’t squeeze blood out of a rock.
For much more on how the middle class is absolutely drowning in debt, please see this article: “Money Is A Form Of Social Control And Most Americans Are Debt Slaves“.
But if you listen to the mainstream media, they would have you believe that happy days are here again.
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.
But at some point, the financial markets will catch up with economic reality. It is just a matter of time.
In the meanwhile, those that are wise are taking advantage of these times of plenty to prepare for the great economic drought that is coming.
Don’t be caught living paycheck to paycheck and totally unprepared when the next wave of the economic collapse strikes. Anyone that believes that this debt-fueled bubble of false hope can last indefinitely is just being delusional.
If the economy is improving, then why are many of the largest retail chains in America closing hundreds of stores? When I was growing up, Sears, J.C. Penney, Best Buy and RadioShack were all considered to be unstoppable retail powerhouses. But now it is being projected that all of them will close hundreds of stores before the end of 2013. Even Wal-Mart is running into problems. A recent internal Wal-Mart memo that was leaked to Bloomberg described February sales as a “total disaster”. So why is this happening? Why are major retail chains all over America collapsing? Is the “retail apocalypse” upon us? Well, the truth is that this is just another sign that the U.S. economy is falling apart right in front of our eyes. Incomes are declining, taxes are going up, government dependence is at an all-time high, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the percentage of the U.S. labor force that is employed has been steadily falling since 2006. The top 10% of all income earners in the U.S. are still doing very well, but most U.S. consumers are either flat broke or are drowning in debt. The large disposable incomes that the big retail chains have depended upon in the past simply are not there anymore. So retail chains all over the United States are now closing up unprofitable stores. This is especially true in low income areas.
When you step back and take a look at the bigger picture, the rapid decline of some of our largest retail chains really is stunning.
It is happening already in some areas, but soon half empty malls and boarded up storefronts will litter the landscapes of cities all over America.
Just check out some of these store closing numbers for 2013. These numbers are from a recent Yahoo Finance article…
Forecast store closings: 200 to 250
Sears Holding Corp.
Forecast store closings: Kmart 175 to 225, Sears 100 to 125
Forecast store closings: 300 to 350
Forecast store closings: 125 to 150
Barnes & Noble
Forecast store closings: 190 to 240, per company comments
Forecast store closings: 500 to 600
Forecast store closings: 150 to 175
Forecast store closings: 450 to 550
The RadioShack in a nearby town just closed up where I live. This is all happening so fast that it is hard to believe.
But the truth is that those store closings are not the entire story. When you dig deeper you find a lot more retailers that are in trouble.
For example, Blockbuster recently announced that this year they will be closing about 300 stores and eliminating about 3,000 jobs.
Toy manufacturer Hasbro recently announced that they will be reducing the size of their workforce by about 10 percent.
Even Wal-Mart is going through a tough stretch right now. According to documents that were leaked to Bloomberg, Wal-Mart is having an absolutely disastrous February…
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. had the worst sales start to a month in seven years as payroll-tax increases hit shoppers already battling a slow economy, according to internal e-mails obtained by Bloomberg News.
“In case you haven’t seen a sales report these days, February MTD sales are a total disaster,” Jerry Murray, Wal- Mart’s vice president of finance and logistics, said in a Feb. 12 e-mail to other executives, referring to month-to-date sales. “The worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company.”
So what in the world is going on here?
The mainstream media continues to proclaim that we are experiencing a robust “economic recovery”, but at the same time there are a whole host of indications that things are continually getting worse.
Even global cell phone sales actually declined slightly in 2012. That was the first time that has happened since the last recession.
Perhaps it is time that we faced the truth. The middle class is shrinking, incomes are declining and there are not nearly as many jobs as there used to be.
Mort Zuckerman pointed this out in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal…
The U.S. labor market, which peaked in November 2007 when there were 139,143,000 jobs, now encompasses only 132,705,000 workers, a drop of 6.4 million jobs from the peak. The only work that has increased is part-time, and that is because it allows employers to reduce costs through a diminished benefit package or none at all.
So how can the mainstream media be talking about how “good” things are if we still have 6.4 million fewer jobs than we had back in November 2007?
And sadly, things may soon be getting a lot worse. If Congress does not do anything about the “sequester”, millions of federal workers may shortly be facing some very painful furloughs according to CNN…
Federal workers could start facing furloughs as early as April, according to federal agencies trying to prepare for the worst.
Unless Congress steps in, some $85 billion in massive spending reductions will hit the federal government, doling out furloughs to much of the nation’s 2.1 million federal workforce, experts say.
If you still live in an area of the country where the stores and the restaurants are booming, you should be very thankful because that is not the reality for most of the country.
I often write about the stunning economic decline of major cities such as Detroit, but there are huge sections of rural America that are in even worse shape than Detroit in many ways.
For example, many Indian reservations all over America have been shamefully neglected by the federal government and have become hotbeds for crime, drugs and poverty.
Business Insider recently profiled the Wind River Indian reservation in western Wyoming. The following is a brief excerpt from that outstanding article…
The Wind River Indian Reservation is not an easy place to get to, but I had to see it for myself.
Thirty-five-hundred square miles of prairie and mountains in western Wyoming, the reservation is home to bitter ancestral enemies: the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.
Even among reservations, it’s renowned for brutal crime, widespread drug use, and legal dumping of toxic waste.
You can see some amazing photos of the Wind River Indian reservation right here.
It is hard to believe that there are places like that in America, but the truth is that conditions like that are spreading to more U.S. communities with each passing day.
We are a nation that is in an advanced state of decline. But as long as the financial markets are okay, our leaders don’t seem too concerned about the suffering that everyone else is going through.
In fact, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan essentially admitted as much during a recent interview with CNBC. The following is how a Zero Hedge article summarized that interview…
Starting at around 1:50, Greenspan states the odds of sequester occurring are very high – in fact, the playdough-faced ex-Chair-head notes, “I find it very difficult to find a scenario in which [the sequester] doesn’t happen” But when asked how this will affect the economy, Awkward Alan is unusually clearly spoken – “the issue is how does it affect the stock market.”
While not so many of our leaders have taken the path to direct truthiness, Greenspan somewhat shocks a Botox’d and babbling Bartiromo when he admits “the stock market is the key player in the game of economic growth.”
Bartiromo shifts uncomfortably in her seat, strokes her imaginary beard and stares blankly as Greenspan explains that while the sequester will have a real effect on the real economy, “if the stock market can hold up through this, then the effect will be rather minor.”
Do you see?
As long as the stock market is moving higher they think that everything is just fine and dandy.
And the Obama administration?
They continue to pursue the same policies that got us into this mess.
Their idea of “economic reform” is to threaten to sue businesses that do not hire ex-convicts.
And of course now that Obama has been re-elected he is putting a tremendous amount of effort into “stimulating the economy”.
For example, he spent this weekend golfing in Florida, and the Obamas recently spent about 20 million taxpayer dollars vacationing in Hawaii.
Meanwhile, the U.S. economy is getting worse with each passing day.
If you doubt that economic conditions are getting worse, please read this article: “Show This To Anyone That Believes That ‘Things Are Getting Better’ In America“.
When you look at the cold, hard numbers, it is undeniable what is happening to America.
And our leaders are not doing anything to fix our problems. In fact, most of the time they are just making things worse.
So buckle up and get prepared. We are in for very bumpy ride, and this is only just the beginning.
America absolutely loves Wal-Mart. 100 million customers visit Wal-Mart every single week in this country. But is Wal-Mart good for America? That is a question that most people never stop and ask. Most of us love shopping in big, clean stores that are packed with super cheap merchandise, but the truth is that Wal-Mart is destroying America in a lot of ways. As you will see below, Wal-Mart has destroyed tens of thousands of small businesses and countless manufacturing jobs over the past couple of decades. Wal-Mart has become a gigantic retail behemoth that sells five times more stuff than any other retailer in the United States. Unfortunately, a large percentage of all the stuff sold at Wal-Mart is made overseas. What that is costing the U.S. economy in terms of lost jobs and lost revenue is incalculable. But Wal-Mart is a perfect example of where our economic system is headed. Our economy is becoming completely and totally dominated by highly centralized monolithic predator corporations that ruthlessly crush all competition and that will stoop to just about anything in order to cut costs. In the future, will we all be working for gigantic communal entities that funnel all of the wealth and economic rewards to a very tiny elite? That sounds very much like how communist China works, and red-blooded Americans should want no part of that. America is supposed to be about free enterprise and competition and working together to build up this country, and Wal-Mart is destroying all of that.
The following are 20 facts about Wal-Mart that will absolutely shock you….
#1 The average U.S. family now spends more than $4000 a year at Wal-Mart.
#2 In 2010, Wal-Mart had revenues of 421 billion dollars. That amount was greater than the GDP of 170 different countries including Norway, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates.
#3 If Wal-Mart was a nation, it would have the 23rd largest GDP in the world.
#4 Wal-Mart now sells more groceries than anyone else in America does. In the United States today, one out of every four grocery dollars is spent at Wal-Mart.
#5 Amazingly, 100 million customers shop at Wal-Mart every single week.
#6 Wal-Mart has opened more than 1,100 “supercenters” since 2005 alone.
#7 Today, Wal-Mart has more than 2 million employees.
#8 If Wal-Mart was an army, it would be the second largest military on the planet behind China.
#9 Wal-Mart is the largest employer in 25 different U.S. states.
#10 According to the Economic Policy Institute, trade between Wal-Mart and China resulted in the loss of 133,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States between 2001 and 2006.
#11 The CEO of Wal-Mart makes more in a single hour than a full-time Wal-Mart associate makes in an entire year.
#12 Tens of thousands of Wal-Mart employees and their children are enrolled in Medicaid and are dependent on the government for healthcare.
#13 Between 2001 and 2007, the value of products that Wal-Mart imported from China grew from $9 billion to $27 billion.
#14 Amazingly, 96 percent of all Americans now live within 20 miles of a Wal-Mart.
#15 The number of “independent retailers” in the United States declined by 60,000 between 1992 and 2007.
#16 According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Wal-Mart spent 7.8 million dollars on political lobbying during 2011. That number does not even include campaign contributions.
#17 Today, Wal-Mart has five times the sales of the second largest U.S. retailer (Costco).
#18 The combined net worth of six members of the Walton family is roughly equal to the combined net worth of the poorest 30 percent of all Americans.
All over the country, independent retailers are going out of business because they cannot compete with Wal-Mart and their super cheap Chinese products. Often communities will give Wal-Mart huge tax breaks just to move in to their areas. But what many communities don’t take into account is that the introduction of a Wal-Mart is often absolutely devastating to small businesses….
A study of small and rural towns in Iowa showed lost sales for local businesses ranging from -17.2% in small towns to -61.4% in rural areas, amounting to a total dollar loss of $2.46 BILLION over a 13-year period.
When we buy stuff made by people working for slave labor wages in China, we destroy good paying American jobs and we make America poorer. This is a point that I have tried to make over and over.
Wal-Mart often tells one thing to the public and then does another thing in private. Sadly, the truth is that Wal-Mart does not care about U.S. manufacturing jobs. Wal-Mart just wants to get products as cheaply as they possibly can, and most of the time that means getting them from China.
Just check out this first-hand testimony from an 81-year-old retired apparel manufacturer….
I was president of the Southwestern Apparel Manufacturers Association. There was a meeting sometime between 1985 and 1990. Walmart had contacted our organization and asked if they could meet with us at our beautiful Apparel Mart we had here in Dallas, which has now been razed, because all the independent merchants don’t exist that used to come to it. Two people from Walmart came down and they said they were going to be sourcing goods from overseas and we would have to meet those prices for consumer products and to get ready for it—we are going to be sourcing the world. Walmart was the only company that came out and said this.
It was sort of shocking: I was selling them some merchandise at the time. On the back of their trucks it was saying “Bring it Back to America!” They had the big “keep it in America” program going at that time on the big signs in the stores. Meanwhile when I reminded the buyer of that, she told me, “that is just for domestic consumption, we’re going to buy at the cheapest we can anywhere on earth.”
As I have written about previously, the United States has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001.
We are losing millions of good jobs that cannot be replaced. If you can believe it, the United States has actually lost an average of about 50,000 manufacturing jobs a month since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
Last year, the U.S. trade deficit with China was the biggest trade deficit that one nation has had with another nation in the history of the world, and Wal-Mart played a huge role in that.
In fact, Wal-Mart has actually been forcing some U.S. manufacturers to pack up and move overseas. The following is from a recent article by Amy Traub….
Walmart’s market power is so immense that the even the largest suppliers must comply with its demands for lower and lower prices because they cannot afford to have their goods taken off its shelves. Companies that used to manufacture products in the United States, from Levi’s jeans to lock maker Master Lock, were pressured to shut their U.S. factories and moved manufacturing abroad to meet Walmart’s demand for low prices.
Unfortunately, the vast wealth that Wal-Mart is sucking out of our communities is not put back into our communities. The profits are funneled out to Wal-Mart executives and shareholders. We may enjoy the low prices, but very little of the money that we give to Wal-Mart gets recycled in our local areas.
In the old days, you could actually support a family selling electronics or running a general store. But you can’t support a family working at Wal-Mart. The vast majority of the jobs that Wal-Mart creates are very low paying. Large numbers of Wal-Mart employees are actually on welfare, and this is part of the reason why we have seen such an explosion in the number of the working poor in America.
At this point, more than 40 percent of all jobs in America are low wage jobs and the middle class is rapidly disappearing.
If we do not support American jobs and American manufacturers they will continue to go away and the welfare rolls in this country will continue to explode.
There is not going to be any prosperity in this country without jobs. Unfortunately, most Americans simply do not understand how good jobs are being systematically destroyed in America every single day.
The path that America is headed on today is only going to end in complete and total disaster. We are being transformed from a wealthy nation into a poor nation. In the end, we will be dominated by a very tiny elite and everyone else will either be among the working poor or will be totally dependent on the government.
Our system is supposed to be about open, honest competition. But that is not what Wal-Mart is about. Wal-Mart is about crushing small businesses and manufacturers here in America and getting us all to buy their super cheap Chinese-made goods.
So what do all of you think about Wal-Mart? Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….