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16 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Live In California

San Francisco Skyline - Public DomainIt has been said that “as California goes, so goes the nation”.  That is why it is such a shame what is happening to that once great state.  At one time, California seemed to be the epicenter of the American Dream.  Featuring some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the entire world, the gorgeous weather and booming economy of the state inspired people from all over the world to move to the state.  But now people are moving out of the state by the millions, because life in California has literally become a nightmare for so many people.

I certainly don’t have anything against the state personally.  My brother and sister were both born there, and I spent a number of my childhood years in stunning northern California.  When I was younger I would sometimes dream of getting a place on the coast eventually, but for reasons I will discuss below I no longer think that would be advisable.

In fact, if I was living in California today I would be immediately looking for a way to move out of the state unless I specifically felt called to stay.  The following are 16 reasons why you shouldn’t live in California…

#1 The entire California coastline is part of the “Ring of Fire” seismic zone that roughly encircles the Pacific Ocean.  The San Andreas Fault has been described as a “time bomb“, and at some point there will be a catastrophic earthquake that absolutely devastates the entire region.  In fact, a study that was just released says that a “major earthquake” on the San Andreas Fault “is way overdue”

A recently published study reveals new evidence that a major earthquake is way overdue on a 100 mile stretch of the San Andreas Fault from the Antelope Valley to the Tejon Pass and beyond.

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey released the results of the years-long study warning a major earthquake could strike soon.

#2 Out of all 50 states, the state of California has been ranked as the worst state for business for 12 years in a row

In what is sounding like a broken record, California once again ranked dead last in Chief Executive magazine’s annual Best and Worst States for Business survey of CEOs – as it has all 12 years the survey has been conducted. Texas, meanwhile, earned the top spot for the 12th straight year.

Among the survey’s subcategories, the 513 CEOs from across the nation ranked California 50th in taxation and regulation, 35th in workforce quality and 26th in living environment, which includes cost of living, the education system and state and local attitudes toward business. Notably, California placed worst among the nine states in the Western region in all three categories.

#3 California has the highest state income tax rates in the entire nation.  For many Americans, the difference between what you would have to pay if you lived in California and what you would have to pay if you lived in Texas could literally buy a car every single year.

#4 The state government in Sacramento seems to go a little bit more insane with each passing session.  This time around, they are talking about going to a single-payer healthcare system for the entire state that would cost California taxpayers 40 billion dollars a year

On Friday, State Senator Ricardo Lara introduced legislation that would transition California’s healthcare into a single-payer system. (RELATED: Read what a retired colonel said about the real purpose of Obamacare). The system would be very similar to the healthcare system currently in place in Canada and would cost California taxpayers roughly $40 billion for the first year alone. Given the poor economic climate California has already created for itself, this will no doubt be just one more burden on the people of California, and one step closer towards total bankruptcy.

Micah Weinberg, the president of the Economic Institute at the Bay Area Council, raised concerns over the financial consequences of the proposed legislation. “Where are they going to come up with the $40 billion?” he asked. He went on to suggest that adopting a state level single-payer system is “just not feasible to do as a state.”

#5 The traffic in the major cities just keeps getting worse and worse.  According to USA Today, Los Angeles now has the worst traffic in the entire world, and San Francisco is not far behind.

#6 A lot of money is being made in Silicon Valley these days (at least for now), but poverty is also exploding in the state.  In desperation, homeless people are banding together to create large tent cities all over the state, and the L.A. City Council recently asked Governor Jerry Brown “to declare homelessness a statewide emergency“.

#7 Thanks to unchecked illegal immigration, crime is on the rise in many California cities.  The drug war that has been raging for years in Mexico is increasingly spilling over the border, and many families have moved out of the state for this reason alone.

#8 California is one of the most litigious states in the entire nation.  According to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, the “lawsuit climate” in California is ranked 47th out of all 50 states.

#9 Every year wildfires and mudslides wreak havoc in the state.  Erosion is particularly bad along the coast, and I have previously written about how some portions of the California coastline are literally falling into the ocean.

#10 California has some of the most ridiculous housing prices in the entire country.  Due to a lack of affordable housing rents have soared to wild extremes in San Francisco, where one poor engineer was actually paying $1,400 a month to live in a closet.

#11 All over the state, key infrastructure is literally falling to pieces.  Governor Jerry Brown recently issued a list of key projects that needed to be done as soon as possible, and the total price tag for that list was 100 billion dollars.  Of course that list didn’t even include the Oroville Dam, and we all saw what happened there.

#12 Radiation from the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster continues to cross the ocean and wash up along the California coastline.  The impact of this crisis on the health of those living along the west coast could potentially be felt for generations.

#13 Illegal drug use in the state is on the rise again, and emergency rooms are being flooded by heroin overdose victims.

#14 On top of everything else, it is being reported that Russia is “quietly ‘seeding’ the U.S. shoreline with nuclear ‘mole’ missiles”.  The following comes from retired colonel and former Russian defense ministry spokesman Viktor Baranetz

“What are these mysterious ‘asymmetrical responses’ that our politicians and generals speak about so often? Maybe it’s a myth or a pretty turn of phrase? No! Our asymmetrical response is nuclear warheads that can modify their course and height so that no computer can calculate their trajectory. Or, for example, the Americans are deploying their tanks, airplanes and special forces battalions along the Russian border. And we are quietly ‘seeding’ the U.S. shoreline with nuclear ‘mole’ missiles (they dig themselves in and ‘sleep’ until they are given the command)[…]

“Oh, it seems I’ve said too much. I should hold my tongue.”

Hopefully what Baranetz is claiming is not accurate, because if it is even partly true the implications are absolutely staggering.

#15 North Korea is a major nuclear threat as well.  It is being reported that the North Koreans are developing an ICBM that could potentially reach the west coast of the United States…

Defense officials have warned that North Korea is on the brink of producing an ICBM that could target the United States. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced in January during his New Year’s address that Pyongyang had “entered the final stage of preparations to test-launch” an ICBM that could reach parts of the United States.

#16 Someday a very large earthquake will produce a major tsunami on the west coast.  According to the Los Angeles Times, one study found that a magnitude 9.0 earthquake along the Cascadia fault could potentially produce a massive tsunami that would “wash away coastal towns”…

If a 9.0 earthquake were to strike along California’s sparsely populated North Coast, it would have a catastrophic ripple effect.

A giant tsunami created by the quake would wash away coastal towns, destroy U.S. 101 and cause $70 billion in damage over a large swath of the Pacific coast. More than 100 bridges would be lost, power lines toppled and coastal towns isolated. Residents would have as few as 15 minutes notice to flee to higher ground, and as many as 10,000 would perish.

Scientists last year published this grim scenario for a massive rupture along the Cascadia fault system, which runs 700 miles off shore from Northern California to Vancouver Island.

Over the past decade, approximately five million people have moved away from California.

After reading this article, perhaps you have a better understanding why so many people are getting out while they still can.

To me, one of the greatest concerns is the rise in seismic activity that we are seeing all over the world.  In my latest book I express my belief that the United States will be greatly affected by this increase in seismic activity, and California is going to get hit harder than just about anywhere else.

Once again, I don’t have anything against California or the people that live there.  It is such a beautiful place, and it once held so much promise.

Unfortunately that promise has been shattered, and there is a mass exodus out of the state as families flee the horrific nightmare that California is in the process of becoming.

Why The Earthquake Near San Francisco Is Just The Start Of The Shaking In California

Tectonic Plates - WikipediaIf you thought that the earthquake that struck northern California on Sunday was something, just wait until you see what is coming in the years ahead.  As you will read about below, we live at a time when earthquake activity is dramatically increasing.  This is especially true of the “Ring of Fire” which runs roughly along the outer perimeter of the Pacific Ocean.  Approximately 81 percent of all big earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire, and the entire west coast of the United States falls within the danger zone.  Over the past few years, we have seen huge earthquake after huge earthquake strike various areas along the Ring of Fire, but up until now the California coastline has mostly been spared.  However, there are indications that this may be about to change in a big way.

Early on Sunday, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck the heart of wine country.  It was the largest earthquake to hit northern California in 25 years.  More than 120 people were injured, scores of buildings were damaged and Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency.

It is being projected that the economic loss from this earthquake will exceed a billion dollars.  Since the initial quake, there have been more than 60 aftershocks, and residents are very much hoping that the worst is over.  The following is how the damage caused by the earthquake was described by CNN

“Everything and everyone in Napa was affected by the quake. My house, along with everybody else’s, is a disaster. It looks like somebody broke in and ravaged the place, room by room.” said CNN iReporter Malissa Koven, who was awakened by the shaking at about 3:20 a.m.

“Anything and everything that could fall, did,” she said.

The damage in Napa is “fairly significant,” said Glenn Pomeroy, the CEO of the California Earthquake Authority, who surveyed the area Sunday afternoon.

“The downtown area is hardest hit, probably because of the age of construction down there,” Pomeroy said. In the residential areas, he is “seeing a lot of chimneys that’ve come crashing down.”

That sounds pretty bad, right?

But remember, this was only a 6.1 magnitude earthquake.  As Wikipedia explains, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake would be many times more powerful…

The Richter magnitude scale (also Richter scale) assigns a magnitude number to quantify the energy released by an earthquake. The Richter scale is a base-10 logarithmic scale, which defines magnitude as the logarithm of the ratio of the amplitude of the seismic waves to an arbitrary, minor amplitude.

As measured with a seismometer, an earthquake that registers 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times greater than that of an earthquake that registered 4.0, and thus corresponds to a release of energy 31.6 times greater than that released by the lesser earthquake.

And the earthquake that happened on Sunday would not even be worth comparing to an 8.0 or a 9.0 quake.  In fact, one study concluded that a 9.0 magnitude earthquake along the Cascadia fault could potentially produce a giant tsunami that would “wash away coastal towns”…

If a 9.0 earthquake were to strike along California’s sparsely populated North Coast, it would have a catastrophic ripple effect.

A giant tsunami created by the quake would wash away coastal towns, destroy U.S. 101 and cause $70 billion in damage over a large swath of the Pacific coast. More than 100 bridges would be lost, power lines toppled and coastal towns isolated. Residents would have as few as 15 minutes notice to flee to higher ground, and as many as 10,000 would perish.

Scientists last year published this grim scenario for a massive rupture along the Cascadia fault system, which runs 700 miles off shore from Northern California to Vancouver Island.

And when we think about “the Big One” hitting California, most of the time we think about southern California.  The most famous fault line in southern California is the San Andreas fault, but the truth is that many experts are far more concerned about the Puente Hills fault line.  According to one seismologist, that is the fault that would be most likely to “eat L.A.” and cause hundreds of billions of dollars in economic damage…

Video simulations of a rupture on the Puente Hills fault system show how energy from a quake could erupt and be funneled toward L.A.’s densest neighborhoods, with the strongest waves rippling to the west and south across the Los Angeles Basin.

According to estimates by the USGS and Southern California Earthquake Center, a massive quake on the Puente Hills fault could kill from 3,000 to 18,000 people and cause up to $250 billion in damage. Under this worst-case scenario, people in as many as three-quarters of a million households would be left homeless.

So don’t get too excited about what happened on Sunday.  Scientists assure us that it is only a matter of time before “the Big One” hits California.

In fact, the 6.1 magnitude earthquake that hit northern California on Sunday was not even the largest earthquake along the Ring of Fire this weekend.  According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook the area around Valparaiso, Chile on Saturday and a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck Peru on Sunday.

As I mentioned above, we have moved into a time when seismic activity is steadily rising.  It has gotten to the point where even the mainstream media cannot ignore it anymore.  For example, just check out the following excerpt from a recent CBS News report…

The average rate of big earthquakes — those larger than magnitude 7 — has been 10 per year since 1979, the study reports. That rate rose to 12.5 per year starting in 1992, and then jumped to 16.7 per year starting in 2010 — a 65 percent increase compared to the rate since 1979. This increase accelerated in the first three months of 2014 to more than double the average since 1979, the researchers report.

Something is happening that scientists don’t understand, and that is a little scary.

As I wrote about the other day, earthquake activity seems to particularly be increasing in the United States.  While the west has been relatively quiet, the number of earthquakes in the central and eastern portions of the nation has quintupled over the past 30 years…

According to the USGS, the frequency of earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S. has quintupled, to an average of 100 a year during the 2011-2013 period, up from only 20 per year during the 30-year period to 2000.

Most of these quakes were minor, but research published by the USGS earlier this year demonstrated that a relatively minor magnitude 5.0 quake caused by wastewater injection after conventional oil drilling triggered a much bigger, 5.7 magnitude quake in Prague, Okla.

“We know the hazard has increased for small and moderate size earthquakes. We don’t know as well how much the hazard has increased for large earthquakes. Our suspicion is it has but we are working on understanding this,” said William Ellsworth, a scientist with the USGS.

What in the world could be causing this to happen?

Oklahoma, which used to rarely ever have significant earthquakes, has experienced over 2,300 earthquakes so far in 2014.

That is absolutely staggering.

And of course volcanic activity has been rising all over the planet as well.  In 2013, the number of eruptions around the globe set a new all-time high, and right now persistent rumbling under Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano has much of Europe on alert

For more than a week the earth has been rumbling beneath Iceland’s looming Bardarbunga volcano. The almost continuous small earthquakes led the government to activate its National Crisis Coordination Centre this week and block off access to the largely uninhabited region around the Bardarbunga caldera.

Major airlines are making contingency plans for a potential eruption that could throw dust into the atmosphere and disrupt flight paths between North America and Europe.

Some scientists are saying that if that volcano erupts, it “could trigger Britain’s coldest winter ever“.

Clearly something is happening.

All over the world seismic activity is on the rise.

That means that the shaking in California (and in much of the rest of the world) may soon get a whole lot worse.

So what do you think is causing all of this?  Please share what you think by posting a comment below…

21 Ways To End The Phrase ‘Americans Are So Broke…’

Coins - Public DomainDid you know that 77 million Americans have unpaid debts that are “in collections” and that Congress is actually thinking about letting post offices offer payday loans?  We live in a country where almost everyone is drowning in debt and where most people are either flat broke or very close to flat broke.  Years ago, “your Mama is so broke” jokes were all the rage, and at the rate we are going they could make a big comeback.  Some of my favorites were “your Mama is so broke she went to McDonald’s and put a milkshake on layaway” and “your Mama is so broke your family ate cereal with a fork to save milk”.  Unfortunately, the facts that I am about to share with you are not funny at all.  In fact, they are quite sobering.  Yes, things are going fairly well for the elitists that live in the good areas of New York City, Washington D.C. and San Francisco right now, but most of the country is deeply struggling as our economic fundamentals continue to crumble.  Please share these numbers with as many people as you can, because we need people to understand that there has not been an “economic recovery” for most of America.  In fact, in many ways things just continue to get even worse.  The following are 21 ways to end the phrase “Americans are so broke”…

1. Americans are so broke that about a third of them have debt collectors on their heels.  One recent study discovered that more than one out of every three adults in the United States has an unpaid debt that is “in collections“.  That is a total of 77 million people.  In other words, the debt collection business in America is absolutely booming.

2. Americans are so broke that Congress is now actually considering allowing post offices to provide payday loans and check cashing services.

3. Americans are so broke that they are keeping their vehicles longer than ever.  The average age of vehicles on America’s roads recently set a new all-time high of 11.4 years.

4. Americans are so broke that car dealers are having to go to extreme lengths to get new customers.  Last year, one out of every four auto loans in the United States was made to someone with subprime credit.

5. Americans are so broke that 52 percent of them cannot even afford the homes that they are living in right now.

6. Americans are so broke that they are falling farther behind on their student loans than ever.  The total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. has now reached a whopping 1.2 trillion dollars, and approximately seven million Americans are in default on their student loans at this point.

7. Young Americans are so broke that half of all college graduates are still relying on their parents financially when they are two years out of school.

8. Young Americans are so broke that only 36 percent of American adults under the age of 35 currently own a home.  That is the lowest level that has ever been recorded.

9. Americans are so broke that many of them can’t even afford to shop at Wal-Mart and dollar stores anymore

Discount stores are slowly dying.

Yesterday, Dollar Tree announced it would buy Family Dollar, a chain that is in the process of closing hundreds of stores and firing workers.

Other discount stores have been struggling as well, writes Heidi Moore at The Guardian. Fashion discounter Loehmann’s filed for bankruptcy, while Wal-Mart’s sales have declined for the past five quarters.

“There’s just not enough money deployed by American families to keep all the discount chains in business,” Moore writes.

10. Americans are so broke that they are running up record levels of debt.  Overall, U.S. households are 11.68 trillion dollars in debt right now.

11. Americans are so broke that the wealth of the “typical American household” has fallen by 36 percent over the past decade.

12. Americans are so broke that one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.

13. Americans are so broke that more than 37 million Americans are now being served by food pantries and soup kitchens.

14. Americans are so broke that there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity.

15. Americans are so broke that the number of people on food stamps has increased by about 14 million while Obama has been in the White House.  Ten years ago, the number of women in the U.S. that had jobs outnumbered the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin.  But now the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps actually exceeds the number of women that have jobs.

16. Americans are so broke that the U.S. government has had to spend an astounding 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs over the past five years.

17. Americans are so broke that more than 20 percent of all children in the U.S. are living in poverty.

18. Americans are so broke that we have a record number of kids sleeping in the streets.  In fact, we have more than a million public school children that are homeless at this point.

19. Americans are so broke that 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

20. Americans are so broke that 26 percent of Americans have absolutely no emergency savings whatsoever.

21. Americans are so broke that approximately two-thirds of all Americans do not have enough money saved up to cover six months of expenses if an emergency arose.

If things are this bad now, during the so-called “economic recovery”, how bad will things get during the next major economic downturn?

Unfortunately, most Americans have been lulled into a false sense of security.  The financial crisis of 2008 seems like ancient history to most of them now, and most people appear to believe that our leaders have “fixed” whatever was wrong the last time.

Of course that is not the case at all.  In fact, our long-term problems have just continued to grow since then.

The truth is that what we are experiencing right now is about as good as things are going to get for the U.S. economy.  When the next crisis arrives, all of the numbers in the list above are going to rapidly get a lot worse.

So enjoy the rest of this “bubble” while you still can.  It certainly will not last for too much longer.

Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere

Financial Bubbles - Public DomainIs there any doubt that we are living in a bubble economy?  At this moment in the United States we are simultaneously experiencing a stock market bubble, a government debt bubble, a corporate bond bubble, a bubble in San Francisco real estate, a farmland bubble, a derivatives bubble and a student loan debt bubble.  And of course similar things could be said about most of the rest of the planet as well.  In fact, the total amount of government debt around the world has risen by about 40 percent just since the last recession.  But it is never sustainable when asset prices and debt levels increase much faster than the overall level of economic growth.  History has shown us that all financial bubbles eventually burst.  And when these current financial bubbles in America burst, the pain is going to be absolutely enormous.

You know that things are getting perilous when even the New York Times starts pointing out financial bubbles everywhere.  The following is a short excerpt from a recent NotQuant article

The New York Times points out that just about everything on Earth is expensive by historical standards.   And then asks the seemingly obvious question:  Does that make it a bubble?

Welcome to the Everything Boom — and, quite possibly, the Everything Bubble. Around the world, nearly every asset class is expensive by historical standards. Stocks and bonds; emerging markets and advanced economies; urban office towers and Iowa farmland; you name it, and it is trading at prices that are high by historical standards relative to fundamentals. The inverse of that is relatively low returns for investors.

Quite possibly?”  We’re not sure what definition of the word “bubble” they’re using.   But in our book when the price of literally everything blasts upwards, obliterating the previous ceilings of historical benchmarks, it’s a pretty good indication that you’re in a bubble.

Of course when most people think of financial bubbles the very first thing they think of is the stock market.  And without a doubt we are in a stock market bubble right now.  The Dow has risen more than 10,000 points since the depths of the last recession.  And it is nearly 3,000 points higher than it was at the peak of the last stock market bubble in 2007 when our economy was far stronger than it is now…

Dow Jones Industrial Average 2014

But of course these stock prices do not reflect economic reality in any way whatsoever.  Our economy has not even come close to recovering to the level it was at prior to the last financial crisis, and yet thanks to massive Federal Reserve money printing stock prices have soared to unprecedented heights.

At some point a massive correction is coming.  No stock market bubble lasts forever.  For a whole bunch of technical reasons why serious market turmoil is on the horizon, please see a recent Forbes article entitled “These 23 Charts Prove That Stocks Are Heading For A Devastating Crash“.

The bubbles in the financial markets have become so glaring that even the central bankers are starting to warn us about them.  For example, just consider what the Bank for International Settlements is saying

The Bank for International Settlements has warned that “euphoric” financial markets have become detached from the reality of a lingering post-crisis malaise, as it called for governments to ditch policies that risk stoking unsustainable asset booms.

While the global economy is struggling to escape the shadow of the crisis of 2007-09, capital markets are “extraordinarily buoyant”, the Basel-based bank said, in part because of the ultra-low monetary policy being pursued around the world. Leading central banks should not fall into the trap of raising rates “too slowly and too late”, the BIS said, calling for policy makers to halt the steady rise in debt burdens around the world and embark on reforms to boost productivity.

In its annual report, the BIS also warned of the risks brewing in emerging markets, setting out early warning indicators of possible banking crises in a number of jurisdictions, including most notably China.

“Particularly for countries in the late stages of financial booms, the trade-off is now between the risk of bringing forward the downward leg of the cycle and that of suffering a bigger bust later on,” it said.

Sadly, just like in 2007, most people are choosing not to listen to these warnings.

Another very troubling bubble that is brewing is the massive bubble of consumer credit in the United States.  According to the Wall Street Journal, consumer credit in the United States increased at a 7.4 percent annual rate in May…

The Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that consumer credit—consumer loans excluding real estate debt—in May increased at an annual rate of 7.4% to a record $3.195 trillion. Most of that gain came from a 9.3% increase in nonrevolving credit, the bulk of which is accounted for by auto and student loans. Revolving credit, which is primarily credit-card debt, expanded at a more muted 2.5% rate after jumping 12.3% in May.

That might be okay if our paychecks were increasing at a 7.4% annual rate, but that is not the case at all.  In fact, median household income in America has gone down for five years in a row.  As the quality of our jobs goes down the drain, our paychecks are shrinking even as our bills go up.  This is putting an incredible amount of stress on tens of millions of American families.

And when you look at the overall debt bubble in this country, things become even more frightening.

In a previous article, I shared a chart which shows the incredible growth of total debt in the United States.  Over the past 40 years, it has gone from about 2.2 trillion dollars to nearly 60 trillion dollars

Total Debt

 

Is this sustainable?

Of course not.

None of these financial bubbles are.

It is not a question of “if” they will burst.  It is only a question of “when”.

And some believe that we are rapidly approaching that point.  In fact, Marc Faber believes that we are seeing signs that it may be starting to happen already…

It’s the question investors everywhere are wrestling with: Are asset prices in a bubble, or do they simply reflect the fact that the global economy is growing once again?

For Marc Faber, editor of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, the answer is clear. In fact, he says the bubble may already be bursting.

“I think it’s a colossal bubble in all asset prices, and eventually it will burst, and maybe it has begun to burst already,” Faber said Tuesday on CNBC’s ‘Futures Now‘ as the S&P 500 lost ground for the second-straight session.

So what do you think?

How much time do you believe that we have before these bubbles start to burst?

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

Has The Next Recession Already Begun For America’s Middle Class?

RecessionHas the next major economic downturn already started?  The way that you would answer that question would probably depend on where you live.  If you live in New York City, or the suburbs of Washington D.C., or you work for one of the big tech firms in the San Francisco area, you would probably respond to such a question by saying of course not.  In those areas, the economy is doing great and prices for high end homes are still booming.  But in most of the rest of the nation, evidence continues to mount that the next recession has already begun for the poor and the middle class.  As you will read about below, major retailers had an absolutely dreadful start to 2014 and home sales are declining just as they did back in 2007 before the last financial crisis.  Meanwhile, the U.S. economy continues to lose more good jobs and 20 percent of all U.S. families do not have a single member that is employed at this point.  2014 is turning out to be eerily similar to 2007 in so many ways, but most people are not paying attention.

During the first quarter of 2014, earnings by major U.S. retailers missed estimates by the biggest margin in 13 years.  The “retail apocalypse” continues to escalate, and the biggest reason for this is the fact that middle class consumers in the U.S. are tapped out.  And this is not just happening to a few retailers – this is something that is happening across the board.  The following is a summary of how major U.S. retailers performed in the first quarter of 2014 that was put together by Jim Quinn

Wal-Mart Profit Plunges By $220 Million as US Store Traffic Declines by 1.4%

Target Profit Plunges by $80 Million, 16% Lower Than 2013, as Store Traffic Declines by 2.3%

Sears Loses $358 Million in First Quarter as Comparable Store Sales at Sears Plunge by 7.8% and Sales at Kmart Plunge by 5.1%

JC Penney Thrilled With Loss of Only $358 Million For the Quarter

Kohl’s Operating Income Plunges by 17% as Comparable Sales Decline by 3.4%

Costco Profit Declines by $84 Million as Comp Store Sales Only Increase by 2%

Staples Profit Plunges by 44% as Sales Collapse and Closing Hundreds of Stores

Gap Income Drops 22% as Same Store Sales Fall

American Eagle Profits Tumble 86%, Will Close 150 Stores

Aeropostale Losses $77 Million as Sales Collapse by 12%

Best Buy Sales Decline by $300 Million as Margins Decline and Comparable Store Sales Decline by 1.3%

Macy’s Profit Flat as Comparable Store Sales decline by 1.4%

Dollar General Profit Plummets by 40% as Comp Store Sales Decline by 3.8%

Urban Outfitters Earnings Collapse by 20% as Sales Stagnate

McDonalds Earnings Fall by $66 Million as US Comp Sales Fall by 1.7%

Darden Profit Collapses by 30% as Same Restaurant Sales Plunge by 5.6% and Company Selling Red Lobster

TJX Misses Earnings Expectations as Sales & Earnings Flat

Dick’s Misses Earnings Expectations as Golf Store Sales Plummet

Home Depot Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic Only Rises by 2.2%

Lowes Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic was Flat

That is quite a startling list.

But plummeting retail sales are not the only sign that the U.S. middle class is really struggling right now.  Home sales have also been extremely disappointing for quite a few months.  This is how Wolf Richter described what we have been witnessing…

This is precisely what shouldn’t have happened but was destined to happen: Sales of existing homes have gotten clobbered since last fall. At first, the Fiscal Cliff and the threat of a US government default – remember those zany times? – were blamed, then polar vortices were blamed even while home sales in California, where the weather had been gorgeous all winter, plunged more than elsewhere.

Then it spread to new-home sales: in April, they dropped 4.7% from a year ago, after March’s year-over-year decline of 4.9%, and February’s 2.8%. Not a good sign: the April hit was worse than February’s, when it was the weather’s fault. Yet April should be the busiest month of the year (excellent brief video by Lee Adler on this debacle).

We have already seen that in some markets, in California for example, sales have collapsed at the lower two-thirds of the price range, with the upper third thriving. People who earn median incomes are increasingly priced out of the market, and many potential first-time buyers have little chance of getting in. In San Diego, for example, sales of homes below $200,000 plunged 46% while the upper end is doing just fine.

As Richter noted, sales of upper end homes are still doing fine in many areas.

But how long will that be able to continue if things continue to get even worse for the poor and the middle class?  Traditionally, the U.S. economy has greatly depended upon consumer spending by the middle class.  If that continues to dry up, how long can we avoid falling into a recession?  For even more numbers that seem to indicate economic trouble for the middle class, please see my previous article entitled “27 Huge Red Flags For The U.S. Economy“.

Other analysts are expressing similar concerns.  For example, check out what John Williams of shadowstats.com had to say during one recent interview

We’re turning down anew. The first quarter should revise into negative territory… and I believe the second quarter will report negative as well.

That will all happen by July 30 when you have the annual revisions to the GDP. In reality the economy is much weaker than that. Economic growth is overstated with the GDP because they understate inflation, which is used in deflating the number…

What we’re seeing now is just… we’ve been barely stagnant and bottomed out… but we’re turning down again.

The reason for this is that the consumer is strapped… doesn’t have the liquidity to fuel the growth in consumption.

Income… the median household income, net of inflation, is as low as it was in 1967. The average guy is not staying ahead of inflation…

This has been a problem now for decades… You were able to buy consumption from the future by borrowing more money, expanding your debt. Greenspan saw the problem was income, so he encouraged debt expansion.

That all blew apart in 2007/2008… the income problems have continued, but now you don’t have the ability to borrow money the way you used to. Without that and the income problems remaining, there’s no way that consumption can grow faster than inflation if income isn’t.

As a result – personal consumption is more than two thirds of the economy – there’s no way you can have positive sustainable growth in the U.S. economy without the consumer being healthy.

The key to the health of the middle class is having plenty of good jobs.

But the U.S. economy continues to lose more good paying jobs.

For example, Hewlett-Packard has just announced that it plans to eliminate 16,000 more jobs in addition to the 34,000 job cuts that have already been announced.

Today, there are 27 million more working age Americans that do not have a job than there were in 2000, and the quality of our jobs continues to decline.

This is absolutely destroying the middle class.  Unless the employment situation in this country starts to turn around, there does not seem to be much hope that the middle class will recover any time soon.

Meanwhile, there are emerging signs of trouble for the wealthy as well.

For instance, just like we witnessed back in 2007, things are starting to look a bit shaky at the “too big to fail” banks.  The following is an excerpt from a recent CNBC report

Citigroup has joined the ranks of those with trading troubles, as a high-ranking official told the Deutsche Bank 2014 Global Financial Services Investor Conference Tuesday that adjusted trading revenue probably will decline 20 percent to 25 percent in the second quarter on an annualized basis.

“People are uncertain,” Chief Financial Officer John Gerspach said of investor behavior, according to an account from the Wall Street Journal. “There just isn’t a lot of movement.”

In recent weeks, officials at JPMorgan Chase and Barclays also both reported likely drops in trading revenue. JPMorgan said it expected a decline of 20 percent of the quarter, while Barclays anticipates a 41 percent drop, prompting it to announce mass layoffs that will pare 19,000 jobs by the end of 2016.

Remember, very few people expected a recession the last time around either.  In fact, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke repeatedly promised us that we would not have a recession and then we went on to experience the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

It will be the same this time as well.  Just like in 2007, we will continue to get an endless supply of “hopetimism” from our politicians and the mainstream media, and they will continue to fill our heads with visions of rainbows, unicorns and economic prosperity for as far as the eyes can see.

But then the next recession will strike and most Americans will be completely blindsided by it.

One Lawmaker Is Literally Smashing The Belongings Of The Homeless With A Sledgehammer

Sledgehammers by Shakespeare at en.wikipediaThere is a war on compassion in America today.  You are about to read about a Hawaii lawmaker that has used a sledgehammer to smash up at least 30 shopping carts that homeless people were using.  Yes, you read that correctly.  He is actually carrying a sledgehammer around so that he can destroy the belongings of homeless people.  He claims that it is his intention “to do something practical that will really clean up the streets”.  But as crazy as that sounds, the truth is that he is not alone.  As you will read about below, there are dozens of major cities all over the country where feeding the homeless has been banned.  In many of these instances, public officials are very open about the fact that the goal is to make their cities “cleaner” and “safer” places to live.  They simply do not want the homeless around.  In fact, there are some cities such as San Diego and San Francisco where social workers are actually giving homeless people one-way bus tickets out of town.  If you doubt this, just keep reading.  The United States is becoming a very cold, heartless place, and homeless people are increasingly being treated like human garbage in this country.  So how bad will the treatment of the homeless become when the economy gets really bad?

When I first heard about a state representative out in Hawaii that was using a sledgehammer to go after homeless people, I could hardly believe it.  But it is actually true.  The following is a short excerpt from an RT article that was published earlier this week…

In the past two weeks residents in Hawaii noticed what appeared to be a crazed individual carrying a sledgehammer through the streets of Honolulu, a state lawmaker looking to rid the city of homeless people by targeting their belongings.

State Representative Tom Brower (D) is currently dedicated to dealing out his own personal brand of “justice” by seeking out homeless people and destroying their possessions. Brower estimates that he has used the sledgehammer to smash at least 30 shopping carts, rendering them useless by bashing in the front wheels.

I got tired of telling people I’m trying to pass laws. I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets,” he told Hawaii News Now. “I find abandoned junk, specifically shopping carts, and I remove them.”

How cold and heartless can one person possibly be?

The truth is that almost all of us are just a few bad breaks from being out on the street.

Hasn’t he ever needed a helping hand at some point in his life?

Unfortunately, government control freaks are cracking down on those that are trying to provide that “helping hand” all over the nation.  For example, one Christian ministry in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has recently been threatened with jail time for feeding the homeless…

Every week for more than five years, staff and volunteers associated with Isaiah 61 Ministries have provided meals, toiletries, clothing and other forms of assistance to the homeless men and women of Harrisburg, as well as to the poor and elderly. Because of the recent threats made by the Dauphin County commission, Isaiah 61 Ministries and several other ministries engaged in similar religious exercises throughout the rest of the week have been unable to serve those most in need of help at this time of year.

And in a previous article I wrote about an organization called Love Wins Ministries that made national headlines when police in Raleigh, North Carolina threatened to arrest them if they continued to distribute sausage biscuits and coffee to homeless people living in the heart of the city.  The following is from a first-hand account from someone who actually witnessed the police threats

On the morning of Saturday, August, 24, Love Wins showed up at Moore Square at 9:00 a.m., just like we have done virtually every Saturday and Sunday for the last six years. We provide, without cost or obligation, hot coffee and a breakfast sandwich to anyone who wants one. We keep this promise to our community in cooperation with five different, large suburban churches that help us with manpower and funding.

On that morning three officers from Raleigh Police Department prevented us from doing our work, for the first time ever. An officer said, quite bluntly, that if we attempted to distribute food, we would be arrested.

Our partnering church brought 100 sausage biscuits and large amounts of coffee. We asked the officers for permission to disperse the biscuits to the over 70 people who had lined up, waiting to eat. They said no. I had to face those who were waiting and tell them that I could not feed them, or I would be arrested.

Sadly, these are not isolated incidents.  This kind of thing is happening all over the nation.

In fact, according to USA Today more than 50 other cities have passed laws against feeding the homeless…

Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City and more than 50 other cities have previously adopted some kind of anti-camping or anti-food-sharing laws, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

And as I mentioned at the top of this article, some major cities are so disgusted by the homeless that they are actually giving them one-way bus tickets to other cities

When her Greyhound bus pulled into town 6 months ago, Maria Castillo got off with two bags and dream.

“Start over, start a new life,” said the 42-year-old.

Castillo had been homeless in San Diego when a social worker offered her a one-way bus ticket to Portland.

“They said come here because all the opportunities in Portland, Oregon,” she said.

But Castillo said life isn’t much better in her new town. She’s still homeless. A Unit 8 investigation found several cities from San Diego to San Francisco are providing one-way bus tickets to the homeless.

When I saw that San Francisco was doing this, I just had to chuckle.  San Francisco holds itself out as a “progressive” city that is a “model” for the rest of the nation to follow, and yet they are so disgusted by homeless people that they are giving them one-way tickets up to Portland.

What in the world is happening to America?

And this crisis is only going to get even worse in the years ahead.  I write frequently about how the level of poverty in this country is growing very rapidly.  If you doubt this, please see my previous article entitled “29 Incredible Facts Which Prove That Poverty In America Is Absolutely Exploding“.

When people think of the homeless, they often think of drunk bums sleeping on benches in our public parks.  But the truth is that the ranks of the homeless include vast numbers of adults that would gladly work if they could, and the ranks of the homeless also include vast numbers of children.

Right now, there are 1.2 million public school students in America that are homeless.  That is a new all-time record, and that number has grown by 72 percent since the start of the last recession.

There are so many people out there that are deeply hurting right now, but the control freaks that are running things don’t want us to help our neighbors.

The control freaks that are running things just want the homeless to go away so that their cities can be shiny and clean and pleasant for visitors that actually have money.

Well, I don’t care what those control freaks say.  If I see someone that needs food or water, I am going to help that person out no matter what the “regulations” say.

And all of the cities that are banning feeding the homeless are literally cursing themselves.  As a society, we will be judged on how we treat our most vulnerable members, and right now America is failing badly in this regard on a whole host of fronts.

The United States is steadily becoming a very cold-hearted place.  Do not let that happen to you personally.  Please remember to do what you can to love your less fortunate neighbors this winter.

Our society is literally starting to come apart at the seams right in front of our eyes.

In this kind of an environment, we are going to need a whole lot more love and compassion than we are seeing right now.

29 Incredible Facts Which Prove That Poverty In America Is Absolutely Exploding

Poverty In America - Photo by C.G.P. GreyDid you know that the number of Americans on welfare is higher than the number of Americans that have full-time jobs?  Did you know that 1.2 million public school students in the U.S. are currently homeless?  Anyone that uses the term “economic recovery” to describe what is happening in the United States today is being deeply insulting to the nearly 150 million Americans that are considered to be either “poor” or “low income” at this point.  Yes, things are great in New York City, Washington D.C. and San Francisco, but almost everywhere else economic conditions continue to steadily get worse.  The gap between the wealthy and the poor is at a level that America has never seen before, and this is beginning to create a “Robin Hood mentality” that could cause a tremendous amount of social chaos in the years ahead.  Anger at the “haves” in America continues to rise at a very alarming pace, and the “have nots” are becoming increasingly desperate.  At some point all of this anger is going to boil over, and you won’t want to be anywhere around major population centers when that happens.  Despite unprecedented borrowing by the federal government in recent years, and despite unprecedented money printing by the Federal Reserve, poverty in the United States keeps getting worse with each passing year. The following are 29 incredible facts which prove that poverty in America is absolutely exploding…

1. What can you say about a nation that has more people getting handouts from the federal government than working full-time?  According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people receiving means-tested welfare benefits is greater than the number of full-time workers in the United States.

2. New numbers have just been released, and they show that the number of public school students in this country that are homeless is at an all-time record high.  It is hard to believe, but right now 1.2 million students that attend public schools in America are homeless.  That number has risen by 72 percent since the start of the last recession.

3. When I was growing up, it seemed like almost everyone was from a middle class home.  But now that has all changed.  One recent study discovered that nearly half of all public students in the United States come from low income homes.

4. How can anyone deny that we are a socialist nation when half the people are getting money from the federal government each month?  According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, 49.2 percent of all Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program.

5. Signs of increasing poverty are even showing up in the wealthiest areas of the nation.  According to the New York Post, New York subways are being “overrun with homeless“.

6. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately one out of every six Americans is now living in poverty.  The number of Americans living in poverty is now at a level not seen since the 1960s.

7. The gap between the rich and the poor in the United States is at an all-time record high.  The wealthy may not consider this to be much of a problem, but those at the other end of the spectrum are very aware of this.

8. The “working poor” is one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population.  At this point, approximately one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.

9. According to numbers provided by Wal-Mart, more than half of their hourly workers make less than $25,000 a year.

10. A recent Businessweek article mentioned a study that discovered that 300 employees at one Wal-Mart in Wisconsin receive a combined total of nearly a million dollars a year in public assistance…

“A decent wage is their demand—a livable wage, of all things,” said Representative George Miller (D-Calif.). The problem with companies like Wal-Mart is their “unwillingness, not their inability, to pay that wage,” he said. “They hand off the difference to taxpayers.” Miller was referring to a congressional report (PDF) released in May that calculated how much Walmart workers rely on public assistance. The study found that the 300 employees at one Supercenter in Wisconsin required some $900,000 worth of public assistance a year.

11. The stock market may be doing great (for the moment), but incomes for average Americans continue to decline.  In fact, median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row.

12. The quality of the jobs in America has been steadily dropping for years.  At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

13. According to a Gallup poll that was recently released, 20.0% of all Americans did not have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed at some point over the past year.  That is just under the record of 20.4% that was set back in November 2008.

14. Young adults are particularly feeling the sting of poverty these days.  American families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

15. As I wrote about a few weeks ago, one out of every five households in the United States is on food stamps.  Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps.

16. The number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the entire population of Spain.

17. According to one calculation, the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the combined populations of “Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.”

18. We are told that we live in the “wealthiest nation” on the planet, and yet more than one out of every four children in the United States is enrolled in the food stamp program.

19. The average food stamp benefit breaks down to approximately $4 per person per day.

20. It is being projected that approximately 50 percent of all U.S. children will be on food stamps before they reach the age of 18.

21. Today, approximately 17 million children in the United States are facing food insecurity.  In other words, that means that “one in four children in the country is living without consistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life.”

22. It may be hard to believe, but approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are currently living in homes that are considered to be either “low income” or impoverished.

23. The number of children living on $2.00 a day or less in the United States has grown to 2.8 million.  That number has increased by 130 percent since 1996.

24. In Miami, 45 percent of all children are living in poverty.

25. In Cleveland, more than 50 percent of all children are living in poverty.

26. According to a recently released report, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.

27. According to a Feeding America hunger study, more than 37 million Americans are now being served by food pantries and soup kitchens.

28. The U.S. government has spent an astounding 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs over the past five years.

29. It has been reported that 4 out of every 5 adults in the United States “struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives”.

These poverty numbers keep getting worse year after year no matter what our politicians do.

So is there anyone out there that would still like to argue that we are in an “economic recovery”?

And as I mentioned above, the “have nots” are becoming increasingly angry at the “haves”.  For example, just check out the following excerpt from a recent New York Post article

The maniac who butchered a Brooklyn mom and her four young kids confessed that he did it because he was jealous of their way of life, a police source told The Post on Sunday.

The family had too much. Their income (and) lifestyle was better than his,” the source said.

The bloody suspect was caught holding the kitchen knife he used during the Saturday night rampage inside the Sunset Park apartment where he had been staying with the victims, the source added.

Sadly, this was not an isolated incident.  All over the western world, a “Robin Hood mentality” is growing.  This is something that I am so concerned about that I made it a big part of my new book.  At this point, even wealthy Hollywood-types such as actor Russell Brand are calling for a socialist-style “revolution” and a “massive redistribution of wealth“.

Perhaps Brand does not understand that what he is calling for would mean redistributing most of his own wealth away from him.

When the next major wave of the economic collapse strikes, I fear that all of this anger and frustration that are growing among the poor will boil over in some very frightening ways.  I believe that we will see a huge spike in crime and that we will eventually see communities all over America looted and burning.

But I am not the only one that is thinking along these lines.  A new National Geographic Channel movie entitled “American Blackout” attempts to portray the social chaos that could erupt in the event of an extended national power failure

American Blackout, National Geographic Channel’s two-hour, edge-of-your-seat movie event imagines the story of a national power failure in the United States caused by a cyberattack — told in real time, over 10 days, by those who kept filming on cameras and phones. You’ll learn what it means to be absolutely powerless.

You can view a clip of the film that was made available by NatGeo for the SHTFplan.com community right here.

What would you do if something like that happened to you?

How would you handle desperate, hungry people at your fence asking for food?

And what if those people were armed and were not “asking nicely” for your food?

Don’t ignore what is happening in America right now.  It is setting the stage for some very chaotic times.

Get ready while you still can.

Finca Bayano

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