The Beginning Of The End
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Retired Air Force Colonel With Three Graduate Degrees Is Homeless And Sleeps In A Van

Blue Van - Photo by SuperTank17What advice would you give to a retired Air Force Colonel that has three graduate degrees and that cannot even find work as a janitor?  59-year-old Robert Freniere once served as a special assistant to General Stanley McChrystal, and he has spent extensive time in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  But now this man who once had an office in the heart of the Pentagon cannot find anyone who will hire him.  In addition to his story, in this article you will also hear about several other middle-aged professionals that cannot find work in this economy either.  Despite what the Obama administration and the mainstream media are telling you, the truth is that there has been no employment recovery in this country.  What you are about to read is absolutely heartbreaking, but it represents the reality of what is really going on out there in the streets of America today.

A lot of unemployed Americans believe that they cannot find work because they don’t have enough “education” or enough “experience”.  Well, the truth is that there are a whole lot of people out there like Freniere that have lots of both and still can’t even get hired as a janitor

After a 30-year military career in which he earned three graduate degrees, rose to the rank of colonel, and served as an aide to Pentagon brass, Robert Freniere can guess what people might say when they learn he’s unemployed and lives out of his van:

Why doesn’t this guy get a job as a janitor?

Freniere answers his own question: “Well, I’ve tried that.”

Freniere, 59, says that his plea for help, to a janitor he once praised when the man was mopping the floors of his Washington office, went unfulfilled. So have dozens of job applications, he says, the ones he has filled out six hours a day, day after day, on public library computers.

So Freniere, a man who braved multiple combat zones and was hailed as “a leading light” by an admiral, is now fighting a new battle: homelessness.

You can read the rest of that article right here.  This just shows how badly the private sector in the United States is failing.  Someone with Freniere’s education and experience should be able to find work easily if our economy truly was healthy.

And of course Freniere is far from alone.  Just consider the story of 59-year-old Nancy Shields

Earlier last year, the 59-year-old Shields lost her townhouse and now rents a single room in her Southern California town. At one point, she managed a team of 60 people for a large retailer. She lost that job in 2011 but took another one—and a 20 percent pay cut—some months later. When that store closed in 2012, her luck ran out, and she has been looking for work ever since.

“My federal [unemployment] benefits (were) about $1,200 a month, and that’s all I get. … I have been very dependent on the generosity of my family members,” Shields said.

Her retirement savings exhausted, Shields said she doesn’t know what she’ll do if Congress doesn’t eventually authorize an extension.

As I have written about previously, a lot of unemployed Americans are going to lose their last lifeline now that their extended unemployment benefits are being cut off.  In fact, it is being projected that a total of 5 million unemployed Americans will lose their benefits by the end of 2014.  Many of those unemployed workers will end up losing everything.  One example of this is 53-year-old biotech researcher Vera Volk

Massachusetts resident Vera Volk also has a master’s degree, but the 53-year-old biotech researcher lost her job at the end of May and has been selling prized possessions in order to stay afloat.

“We’ve had to cash in everything that we could potentially cash in,” Volk said. “We’ve got our water heater down to the lowest we could potentially tolerate.” Volk’s extended unemployment benefits of $480 a week are the couple’s sole source of income. They’re four months behind on their mortgage, and although she and her husband have chronic health conditions, they couldn’t afford to keep paying for health insurance.

What would you do if you lost your job and couldn’t find another one no matter how hard you tried?

How would you stay afloat?

For 37-year-old Jeremy Botta, it is probably going to come down to selling off his most important possessions…

The pickup truck will probably be the first thing to go. 

It’s the first new car that Jeremy Botta has ever bought, using his savings from working for more than 14 years at the same auto repair shop. “I bent over backwards—I worked almost a 100 hours a week on my salary to turn that store around,” said Botta, 37, who was laid off in April after the shop changed owners.

Have you ever worked 100 hours a week?

There are many Americans out there that put in crazy hours month after month and end up with nothing to show for it.

Now Botta is facing the very real possibility that he will have to sell his house just to survive…

“If it comes down to it, I’ll have to sell the house,” says Botta, who bought the place in Bend, Ore., just months before he suddenly lost his job, which netted him as much as $60,000 in a good year. Having already raided his retirement savings, Botta thinks he’ll need to take three or four part-time jobs, working 60 to 70 hours a week just to get by without the unemployment checks.

“I don’t know how people make it on minimum wage,” says Botta. Having applied for nearly 100 jobs without luck—including cashier’s positions at Home Depot and Lowe’s—Botta expects he’ll be pumping gas if he’s lucky.

In a previous article entitled “15 Signs That The Quality Of Jobs In America Is Going Downhill Really Fast“, I detailed how the quality of the jobs in the United States is rapidly deteriorating.

And these days it is not just those with little education that are being forced to work low paying jobs.  In fact, the number of college graduates working minimum wage jobs has doubled since 2007.

In addition, according to a National Employment Law Project study about 60 percent of the jobs that have been “created” since the end of the last recession pay $13.83 or less an hour.

But you can’t support a family on that kind of an income.  In millions of homes in America today, both the father and the mother work multiple jobs and there still isn’t enough money at the end of the month.

The middle class is being systematically destroyed and poverty is absolutely soaring.  In some areas of the country, more than 40 percent of the people live below the poverty line.  You can check out an interactive map which shows where the highest levels of poverty in America are right here.  As you can see, the southern half of the nation has been hit particularly hard.

In a desperate attempt to stay afloat, more Americans than ever are turning to emergency loans.  I have written about the payday loan scam previously, but now a new twist on that scam has emerged.

They are being called “workplace loans”, and companies all over America are beginning to offer them as “benefits” to their workers.  But the effective annual percentage rate on these loans can be as high as 165 percent

Arizona Restaurant Systems Inc., a Scottsdale, Ariz., company that operates 28 Sonic locations in the state, allows workers to take out loans ranging from $150 to $500 that typically last two weeks.

The fees, ranging from $8 to $25 plus interest, don’t go to the restaurant franchisee, but to a lender called Think Finance Inc., which makes the loans. Based on the fees, the loans carry an effective annual percentage rate of 100% to 165%.

Please don’t get trapped in any of those loans.  They simply are not worth it.

Unfortunately, this is just the start of our economic problems.  We are in the midst of a long-term economic decline that will soon greatly accelerate.

And despite relentless propaganda from the mainstream media about how “good” things are, most Americans are very pessimistic about where things are headed.  According to a survey conducted in December by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 54 percent of all Americans believe that life in America will “go downhill” as we approach 2050, and only 23 percent believe that life will improve during the next few decades.

Also, Americans seem to have very little faith in the federal government at this point.  According to a shocking new poll that was just released, only one out of every 20 Americans believe that the government is functioning well and needs no changes, and 70 percent of all Americans do not have confidence that the government will “make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014.”

If you are waiting for our politicians to fix everything and save the day, you can quit holding your breath.  They are way too busy having fun and raising money for their next campaigns.

For example, despite the fact that our country is falling apart all around us, Barack Obama just took an extended holiday vacation out in Hawaii and played his 160th round of golf since taking office.

Our “leaders” are not going to rescue us from what is coming.  That is why it is imperative to get prepared for the coming storm while you still can.

Time is running out.

Blue Van - Photo by SuperTank17

25 Facts About The Fall Of Detroit That Will Leave You Shaking Your Head

Detroit - Photo by Bob JagendorfIt is so sad to watch one of America’s greatest cities die a horrible death.  Once upon a time, the city of Detroit was a teeming metropolis of 1.8 million people and it had the highest per capita income in the United States.  Now it is a rotting, decaying hellhole of about 700,000 people that the rest of the world makes jokes about.  On Thursday, we learned that the decision had been made for the city of Detroit to formally file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.  It was going to be the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the United States by far, but on Friday it was stopped at least temporarily by an Ingham County judge.  She ruled that Detroit’s bankruptcy filing violates the Michigan Constitution because it would result in reduced pension payments for retired workers.  She also stated that Detroit’s bankruptcy filing was “also not honoring the (United States) president, who took (Detroit’s auto companies) out of bankruptcy“, and she ordered that a copy of her judgment be sent to Barack Obama.  How “honoring the president” has anything to do with the bankruptcy of Detroit is a bit of a mystery, but what that judge has done is ensured that there will be months of legal wrangling ahead over Detroit’s money woes.  It will be very interesting to see how all of this plays out.  But one thing is for sure – the city of Detroit is flat broke.  One of the greatest cities in the history of the world is just a shell of its former self.  The following are 25 facts about the fall of Detroit that will leave you shaking your head…

1) At this point, the city of Detroit owes money to more than 100,000 creditors.

2) Detroit is facing $20 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities.  That breaks down to more than $25,000 per resident.

3) Back in 1960, the city of Detroit actually had the highest per-capita income in the entire nation.

4) In 1950, there were about 296,000 manufacturing jobs in Detroit.  Today, there are less than 27,000.

5) Between December 2000 and December 2010, 48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in the state of Michigan were lost.

6) There are lots of houses available for sale in Detroit right now for $500 or less.

7) At this point, there are approximately 78,000 abandoned homes in the city.

8) About one-third of Detroit’s 140 square miles is either vacant or derelict.

9) An astounding 47 percent of the residents of the city of Detroit are functionally illiterate.

10) Less than half of the residents of Detroit over the age of 16 are working at this point.

11) If you can believe it, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.

12) Detroit was once the fourth-largest city in the United States, but over the past 60 years the population of Detroit has fallen by 63 percent.

13) The city of Detroit is now very heavily dependent on the tax revenue it pulls in from the casinos in the city.  Right now, Detroit is bringing in about 11 million dollars a month in tax revenue from the casinos.

14) There are 70 “Superfund” hazardous waste sites in Detroit.

15) 40 percent of the street lights do not work.

16) Only about a third of the ambulances are running.

17) Some ambulances in the city of Detroit have been used for so long that they have more than 250,000 miles on them.

18) Two-thirds of the parks in the city of Detroit have been permanently closed down since 2008.

19) The size of the police force in Detroit has been cut by about 40 percent over the past decade.

20) When you call the police in Detroit, it takes them an average of 58 minutes to respond.

21) Due to budget cutbacks, most police stations in Detroit are now closed to the public for 16 hours a day.

22) The violent crime rate in Detroit is five times higher than the national average.

23) The murder rate in Detroit is 11 times higher than it is in New York City.

24) Today, police solve less than 10 percent of the crimes that are committed in Detroit.

25) Crime has gotten so bad in Detroit that even the police are telling people to “enter Detroit at your own risk“.

It is easy to point fingers and mock Detroit, but the truth is that the rest of America is going down the exact same path that Detroit has gone down.

Detroit just got there first.

All over this country, there are hundreds of state and local governments that are also on the verge of financial ruin

“Everyone will say, ‘Oh well, it’s Detroit. I thought it was already in bankruptcy,’ ” said Michigan State University economist Eric Scorsone. “But Detroit is not unique. It’s the same in Chicago and New York and San Diego and San Jose. It’s a lot of major cities in this country. They may not be as extreme as Detroit, but a lot of them face the same problems.”

A while back, Meredith Whitney was highly criticized for predicting that there would be a huge wave of municipal defaults in this country.  When it didn’t happen, the critics let her have it mercilessly.

But Meredith Whitney was not wrong.

She was just early.

Detroit is only just the beginning.  When the next major financial crisis strikes, we are going to see a wave of municipal bankruptcies unlike anything we have ever seen before.

And of course the biggest debt problem of all in this country is the U.S. government.  We are going to pay a great price for piling up nearly 17 trillion dollars of debt and over 200 trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities.

All over the nation, our economic infrastructure is being gutted, debt levels are exploding and poverty is spreading.  We are consuming far more wealth than we are producing, and our share of global GDP has been declining dramatically.

We have been living way above our means for so long that we think it is “normal”, but an extremely painful “adjustment” is coming and most Americans are not going to know how to handle it.

So don’t laugh at Detroit.  The economic pain that Detroit is experiencing will be coming to your area of the country soon enough.

21 Signs That The New Reality For Many Baby Boomers Will Be To Work As Wage Slaves Until They Drop Dead

All over America tonight, millions of elderly Americans are wondering if their money is going to run out before it is time for them to die.  Those that are now past retirement age are not going to be rioting in the streets, but that doesn’t mean that large numbers of them are not deeply suffering.  There are millions of elderly Americans that are leading lives of “quiet desperation” as they try to get by on meager fixed incomes.  Many are surviving on Ramen noodles, oatmeal, peanut butter or whatever other cheap food they can find in the stores.  There are some that are so short on cash that they will not turn on the heat in their homes until things get really desperate.  As health care costs soar, millions of elderly Americans find themselves deep in debt and facing huge medical bills that they cannot possibly pay.  A lot of older Americans would go back to work if they could, but jobs are scarce and very few companies seem to even want to consider hiring them.  Right now caring for all of the Americans that have already retired is turning out to be an overwhelming challenge, and things are about to get a whole lot worse.  On January 1st, 2011 the very first Baby Boomers turned 65.  A massive tsunami of retirees is coming, and America is not ready for it.

Sadly, most retirees have not adequately prepared for retirement.  For many, the recent economic downturn absolutely devastated their retirement plans.  Many were counting on the equity in their homes, but the recent housing crash crushed those dreams.  Others had their 401ks shredded by the stock market.

Meanwhile, corporate pension plans all across America are vastly underfunded.  Many state and local government pension programs are absolute disasters.  The federal government has already begun to pay out significantly more in Social Security benefits than they are taking in, and the years ahead are projected to be downright apocalyptic for the Social Security program.

So needless to say, things do not look good for the Baby Boomers that are now approaching retirement age.

The following are 21 signs that the new reality for many Baby Boomers will be to work as wage slaves until they drop dead….

#1 According to a shocking AARP survey of Baby Boomers that are still in the workforce, 40 percent of them plan to work “until they drop”.

#2 A recent survey of American workers that included all age groups found that 54 percent of them planned to keep working when they retire and 39 percent of them plan to either work past age 70 or never retire at all.

#3 A poll conducted by CESI Debt Solutions found that 56 percent of American retirees still had outstanding debts when they retired.

#4 A recent study by a law professor from the University of Michigan found that Americans that are 55 years of age or older now account for 20 percent of all bankruptcies in the United States.  Back in 2001, they only accounted for 12 percent of all bankruptcies.

#5 Between 1991 and 2007 the number of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 that filed for bankruptcy rose by a staggering 178 percent.

#6 Most of the bankruptcies among the elderly are caused by our deeply corrupt health care system.  According to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States.  Of those bankruptcies that were caused by medical bills, approximately 75 percent of them involved individuals that actually did have health insurance.

#7 The U.S. government now says that the Medicare trust fund will run dry five years faster than they were projecting just last year.

#8 Starting on January 1st, 2011 the Baby Boomers began to hit retirement age.  From now on, every single day more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach the age of 65.  That is going to keep happening every single day for the next 19 years.

#9 Over 30 percent of all U.S. investors currently in their sixties have more than 80 percent of their 401k retirement plans invested in equities.  So what happens if the stock market crashes again?

#10 All over the United States predatory lenders are coldly and cruelly foreclosing on elderly homeowners.  You can read what one lender is doing to a 70-year-old woman and her terminally ill husband right here.

#11 Medical bills are absolutely devastating large number of elderly Americans right now.  Many are going to great lengths to try to pay their bills.  An elderly woman that lives in the Salem, Oregon area that is fighting terminal bone cancer tried to raise some money for her medical bills by holding a few garage sales on the weekends.  However, a neighbor ratted her out, and so now the police are shutting her garage sales down.

#12 Social Security’s disability program has already been pushed to the brink of insolvency and wave after wave of new applications continue to pour in.

#13 Approximately 3 out of every 4 Americans start claiming Social Security benefits the moment they are eligible at age 62.  Most are doing this out of necessity.  However, by claiming Social Security early they get locked in at a much lower amount than if they would have waited.

#14 According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Social Security system paid out more in benefits than it received in payroll taxes in 2010.  That was not supposed to happen until at least 2016.  Sadly, in the years ahead these “Social Security deficits” are scheduled to become absolutely nightmarish as hordes of Baby Boomers retire.

#15 In 1950, each retiree’s Social Security benefit was paid for by 16 U.S. workers.  In 2010, each retiree’s Social Security benefit was paid for by approximately 3.3 U.S. workers.  By 2025, it is projected that there will be approximately two U.S. workers for each retiree.  How in the world can the system possibly continue to function properly with numbers like that?

#16 According to a shocking U.S. government report, soaring interest costs on the U.S. national debt plus rapidly escalating spending on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare will absorb approximately 92 cents of every single dollar of federal revenue by the year 2019.  That is before a single dollar is spent on anything else.

#17 Most states have huge pension liabilities that are woefully underfunded.  For example, pension consultant Girard Miller recently told California’s Little Hoover Commission that state and local government bodies in the state of California have $325 billion in combined unfunded pension liabilities.  When you break that down, it comes to $22,000 for every single working adult in the state of California.

#18 Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago and Joshua D. Rauh of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management recently calculated the combined pension liability for all 50 U.S. states.  What they found was that the 50 states are collectively facing $5.17 trillion in pension obligations, but they only have $1.94 trillion set aside in state pension funds.  That is a difference of 3.2 trillion dollars.  So where in the world is all of that extra money going to come from?  Most of the states are already completely broke and on the verge of bankruptcy.

#19 According to one recent survey, 36 percent of Americans say that they don’t contribute anything at all to retirement savings.

#20 According to another recent survey, 24 percent of all U.S. workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age at least once during the past year.

#21 Even though prices for necessities such as food and gas have been exploding, those receiving Social Security benefits have not received a cost of living increase for two years in a row.  Many elderly Americans that are living on fixed incomes are being squeezed like they have never been squeezed before.

There are millions of Americans out there that have done everything “right” all of their lives, but that now find the system letting them down in their golden years.

So how badly are some people hurting?  Well, a reader identified as “Anna44″ recently shared with us what some of her family members have been going through in this economy….

My B-I-L was a dealership owner/manager who worked long hours over 38 years and had to close his doors when Saturn was dissolved. When his dealership went under, 72 others lost their job. That’s 72 families who took a hit. He lost his home, everything. A few of his former employees lost their homes as well eventually. They were not lazy or WORTHLESS. It took him a year and a half to finally find something, but now he lives in a hotel unable to qualify for a house or apartment. This is an educated man who competed nationwide for top dog and got it more then once. His biggest fault? He’s almost 60, young enough to need the work, but too old to be hired.

As for my husband- 26 years AF officer, handling millions & billions on International & National levels has just entered his 7th month of unemployment. Two tours abroad- lazy he is NOT. He doesn’t qualify for unemployment, nor is he counted because he gets a retirement check. He wants and needs to work- yet there is little out there. If he doesn’t find something soon, we too will lose the home we sunk every cent into after 20 years of saving for it!

These are Americans that should be getting ready to enjoy their golden years, but that are now fighting just to survive.

Today you will find a disturbingly large number of elderly Americans flipping burgers or welcoming people to Wal-Mart.  But most of them are not doing it because they are bored with retirement.  Rather, most of them are working as wage slaves because that is what they have to do in order to survive.

Sadly, there are a whole lot of companies out there that do not want to hire people that are past a certain age.  If you are older than 50, there are a lot of jobs that you should just basically forget about applying for.

Instead of valuing the experience and wisdom of our elders, our society openly makes fun of them and treats them as undesirables.

If you are afraid of getting old, you are not being irrational.  Getting old is indeed something to fear in this society.  We tend to treat elderly Americans like garbage.

Abuse of the elderly is rampant.  For example, a report from a couple of years ago found that 94 percent of all nursing homes in the United States had committed violations of federal health and safety standards.

As the U.S. economy continues to crumble, the way we treat the elderly is probably going to get even worse.

Right now there is tons of bad news about the economy, and another major economic downturn would put even more pressure on federal, state and local government budgets.

The truth is that there is simply no way that we can keep all of the financial promises that we have made to elderly Americans even if the most optimistic projections for our economy play out.

If the worst happens, we are going to see a lot more elderly Americans eating out of trash cans and freezing to death in their own homes.

The United States is facing a retirement crisis of unprecedented magnitude.  A comfortable, happy retirement is rapidly going to become a luxury that only the wealthy will enjoy.

For most of the rest of us, our golden years are going to mean a whole lot of pain and suffering.

That may not be pleasant to hear, but that is the truth.

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