How Will The Economy Improve In 2014 If Almost Everyone Has Less Money To Spend?

Piggybank - Photo by Damian O'SullivanIs the U.S. consumer tapped out?  If so, how in the world will the U.S. economy possibly improve in 2014?  Most Americans know that the U.S. economy is heavily dependent on consumer spending.  If average Americans are not out there spending money, the economy tends not to do very well.  Unfortunately, retail sales during the holiday season appear to be quite disappointing and the middle class continues to deeply struggle.  And for a whole bunch of reasons things are likely going to be even tougher in 2014.  Families are going to have less money in their pockets to spend thanks to much higher health insurance premiums under Obamacare, a wide variety of tax increases, higher interest rates on debt, and cuts in government welfare programs.  The short-lived bubble of false prosperity that we have been enjoying for the last couple of years is rapidly coming to an end, and 2014 certainly promises to be a very “interesting year”.

Obamacare Rate Shock

Most middle class families are just scraping by from month to month these days.

Unfortunately for them, millions of those families are now being hit with massive health insurance rate increases.

In a previous article, I discussed how one study found that health insurance premiums for men are going to go up by an average of 99 percent under Obamacare and health insurance premiums for women are going to go up by an average of 62 percent under Obamacare.

Most middle class families simply cannot afford that.

Earlier today, I got an email from a reader that was paying $478 a month for health insurance for his family but has now received a letter informing him that his rate is going up to $1,150 a month.

Millions of families are receiving letters just like that.  And to say that these rate increases are a “surprise” to most people would be a massive understatement.  Even people that work in the financial industry are shocked at how high these premiums are turning out to be…

“The real big surprise was how much out-of-pocket would be required for our family,” said David Winebrenner, 46, a financial adviser in Lebanon, Ky., whose deductible topped $12,000 for a family of six for a silver plan he was considering. The monthly premium: $1,400.

Since Americans are going to have to pay much more for health insurance, that is going to remove a huge amount of discretionary spending from the economy, and that will not be good news for retailers.

Get Ready For Higher Taxes

When you raise taxes, you reduce the amount of money that people have in their pockets to spend.

Sadly, that is exactly what is happening.

Congress is allowing a whopping 55 tax breaks to expire at the end of this year, and when you add that to the 13 major tax increases that hit American families in 2013, it isn’t a pretty picture.

This tax season, millions of families are going to find out that they have much higher tax bills than they had anticipated.

And all of this comes at a time when incomes in America have been steadily declining.  In fact, real median household income has declined by a total of 8 percent since 2008.

If you are a worker, you might want to check out the chart that I have posted below to see where you stack up.  In America today, most workers are low income workers.  These numbers come from a recent Huffington Post article

-If you make more than $10,000, you earn more than 24.2% of Americans, or 37 million people.

-If you make more than $15,000 (roughly the annual salary of a minimum-wage employee working 40 hours per week), you earn more than 32.2% of Americans.

-If you make more than $30,000, you earn more than 53.2% of Americans.

-If you make more than $50,000, you earn more than 73.4% of Americans.

-If you make more than $100,000, you earn more than 92.6% of Americans.

-You are officially in the top 1% of American wage earners if you earn more than $250,000.

-The 894 people that earn more than $20 million make more than 99.99989% of Americans, and are compensated a cumulative $37,009,979,568 per year.

It is important to keep in mind that those numbers are for the employment income of individuals not households.  Most households have more than one member working, so overall household incomes are significantly higher than these numbers.

Higher Interest Rates Mean Larger Debt Payments

On Tuesday, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries rose to 3.03 percent.  I warned that this would happen once the taper started, and this is just the beginning.  Interest rates are likely to steadily rise throughout 2014.

The reason why the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is such a critical number is because mortgage rates and thousands of other interest rates throughout our economy are heavily influenced by that number.

So big changes are on the way.  As a recent CNBC article declared, the era of low mortgage rates is officially over…

The days of the 3.5% 30-year fixed are over. Rates are already up well over a full percentage point from a year ago, and as the Federal Reserve begins its much anticipated exit from the bond-buying business, I believe rates will inevitably go higher.

Needless to say, this is going to deeply affect the real estate market.  As Mac Slavo recently noted, numbers are already starting to drop precipitously…

The National Association of Realtors reported that the month of September saw its single largest drop in signed home sales in 40 months. And that wasn’t just a one-off event. This month mortgage applications collapsed a shocking 66%, hitting a 13-year low.

And U.S. consumers can expect interest rates on all kinds of loans to start rising.  That is going to mean higher debt payments, and therefore less money for consumers to spend into the economy.

Government Benefit Cuts

Well, if the middle class is going to have less money to spend, perhaps other Americans can pick up the slack.

Or maybe not.

You certainly can’t expect the poor to stimulate the economy.  As I mentioned yesterday, it is being projected that up to 5 million unemployed Americans could lose their unemployment benefits by the end of 2014, and 47 million Americans recently had their food stamp benefits reduced.

So the poor will also have less money to spend in 2014.

The Wealthy Save The Day?

Perhaps the stock market will continue to soar in 2014 and the wealthy will spend so much that it will make up for all the rest of us.

You can believe that if you want, but the truth is that there are a whole host of signs that the days of this irrational stock market bubble are numbered.  The following is an excerpt from one of my recent articles entitled “The Stock Market Has Officially Entered Crazytown Territory“…

The median price-to-earnings ratio on the S&P 500 has reached an all-time record high, and margin debt at the New York Stock Exchange has reached a level that we have never seen before.  In other words, stocks are massively overpriced and people have been borrowing huge amounts of money to buy stocks.  These are behaviors that we also saw just before the last two stock market bubbles burst.

If the stock market bubble does burst, the wealthy will also have less money to spend into the economy in 2014.

For the moment, the stock market has been rallying.  This is typical for the month of December.  You see, the truth is that investors generally don’t want to sell stocks in December because they want to put off paying taxes on the profits.

If stocks are sold before the end of the year, the profits go on the 2013 tax return.

If stocks are sold a few days from now, the profits go on the 2014 tax return.

It is only human nature to want to delay pain for as long as possible.

Expect to see some selling in January.  Many investors are very eager to start taking profits, but they wanted to wait until the holidays were over to do so.

So what do you think is coming up in 2014?  Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

Piggybank - Photo by Damian O'Sullivan

55 Facts About The Debt And U.S. Government Finances That Every American Voter Should Know

The future of the United States of America is being systematically destroyed by our politicians, but unfortunately most Americans don’t really grasp exactly what is happening.  30 years ago, our national debt had just crossed the one trillion dollar mark.  Just recently, it crossed the 16 trillion dollar mark.  Prior to every election, politicians from both parties swear up and down that they will do something about our exploding debt, but it never happens.  Once again this year, our politicians are making all kinds of grand promises about getting U.S. government finances under control.  But they are also promising all kinds of new plans and programs which are going to cost a lot more money on top of what we are already spending.  For the average American, all of this can be incredibly confusing.  That is why I have put together a list of facts about the debt and U.S. government finances below.  These are things that every voter should know.  The federal government is stealing more than a trillion dollars a year from our children and our grandchildren, and they are spending that money in some of the most foolish ways that you could ever imagine.  We have accumulated the largest mountain of debt in the history of the world, but our politicians just can’t help themselves – they appear to be absolutely addicted to spending money.  If we continue on the path that we are currently on, our entire financial system and our entire economy will be destroyed by all of this debt.  Time is running out and urgent action is needed to address this crisis.

Many of our founding fathers attempted to warn us about the dangers of government debt.  For example, Thomas Jefferson once said the following

I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.

Where would we be today if such an amendment had been added to our Constitution?

How much brighter would our future be if the federal government had been forced to only spend what it took in all these years?

Those are very good questions.

The following are 55 facts about the debt and U.S. government finances that every American voter should know….

#1 While Barack Obama has been president, the U.S. government has spent about 11 dollars for every 7 dollars of revenue that it has actually brought in.

#2 During the fiscal year that just ended, the U.S. government took in 2.449 trillion dollars but it spent 3.538 trillion dollars.

#3 During fiscal year 2011, over a trillion dollars of government money was spent on 83 different welfare programs, and those numbers do not even include Social Security or Medicare.

#4 Over the past four years, welfare spending has increased by 32 percent.  In inflation-adjusted dollars, spending on those programs has risen by 378 percent over the past 30 years.  At this point, more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government.  Once again, these figures do not even include Social Security or Medicare.

#5 Over the past year, the number of Americans getting a free cell phone from the federal government has grown by 43 percent.  Now more than 16 million Americans are enjoying what has come to be known as an “Obamaphone”.

#6 When Barack Obama first entered the White House, about 32 million Americans were on food stamps.  Now, nearly 47 million Americans are on food stamps.  And this has happened during what Obama refers to as “an economic recovery”.

#7 The U.S. government recently spent 27 million dollars on pottery classes in Morocco.

#8 The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently spent $300,000 to encourage Americans to eat caviar at a time when more families than ever are having a really hard time just trying to put any food on the table at all.

#9 During 2012, the National Science Foundation spent $516,000 to support the creation of a video game called “Prom Week”, which apparently simulates “all the social interactions of the event.

#10 The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave the largest snack food maker in the world (PepsiCo Inc.) a total of 1.3 million dollars in corporate welfare that was used to help build “a Greek yogurt factory in New York.

#11 The National Science Foundation recently gave researchers at Purdue University $350,000.  They used part of that money to help fund a study that discovered that if golfers imagine that a hole is bigger it will help them with their putting.

#12 If you can believe it, $10,000 from the federal government was actually used to purchase talking urinal cakes up in Michigan.

#13 The National Science Foundation recently gave a whopping $697,177 to a New York City-based theater company to produce a musical about climate change.

#14 The National Institutes of Health recently gave $666,905 to a group of researchers that is studying the benefits of watching reruns on television.

#15 The National Science Foundation has given 1.2 million dollars to a team of “scientists” that is spending part of that money on a study that is seeking to determine whether elderly Americans would benefit from playing World of Warcraft or not.

#16 The National Institutes of Health recently gave $548,731 to a team of researchers that concluded that those that drink heavily in their thirties also tend to feel more immature.

#17 The National Science Foundation recently spent $30,000 on a study to determine if “gaydar” actually exists.  This is the conclusion that the researchers reached at the end of the study….

“Gaydar is indeed real and… its accuracy is driven by sensitivity to individual facial features”

#18 Back in 2011, the National Institutes of Health spent $592,527 on a study that sought to figure out once and for all why chimpanzees throw poop.

#19 The U.S. government spends more on the military than China, Russia, Japan, India, and the rest of NATO combined.  In fact, the United States accounts for 41.0% of all military spending on the planet.  China is next with only 8.2%.

#20 In a previous article, I noted that close to 500,000 federal employees now make at least $100,000 a year.

#21 In 2006, only 12 percent of all federal workers made $100,000 or more per year.  Now, approximately 22 percent of all federal workers do.

#22 If you can believe it, there are 77,000 federal workers that make more than the governors of their own states do.

#23 During 2010, the average federal employee in the Washington D.C. area received total compensation worth more than $126,000.

#24 The U.S. Department of Defense had just nine civilians earning $170,000 or more back in 2005.  When Barack Obama became president, the U.S. Department of Defense had 214 civilians earning $170,000 or more.  By June 2010, the U.S. Department of Defense had 994 civilians earning $170,000 or more.

#25 During 2010, compensation for federal employees came to a grand total of approximately 447 billion dollars.

#26 If you can believe it, close to 15,000 retired federal employees are currently collecting federal pensions for life worth at least $100,000 annually.  That list includes such names as Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Trent Lott, Dick Gephardt and Dick Cheney.

#27 During 2010, the federal government spent $33,387 on the hair care needs of U.S. Senators.

#28 During 2010, U.S. Senators pulled $72,370 out of the “Senate Restaurant Fund”.

#29 During 2010, an average of $4,005,900 of U.S. taxpayer money was spent on “personal” and “office” expenses per Senator.

#30 In 2013, 3.7 million dollars will be spent to support the lavish lifestyles of former presidents such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

#31 During 2011, the federal government spent a total of 1.4 BILLION dollars just on the Obamas.

#32 When you combine all federal government spending, all state government spending and all local government spending, it comes to approximately 41 percent of U.S. GDP.  But don’t worry, all of our politicians insist that this is not socialism.

#33 As I have written about previously, less than 30 percent of all Americans lived in a home where at least one person received financial assistance from the federal government back in 1983.  Today, that number is sitting at an all-time high of 49 percent.

#34 Back in 1990, the federal government accounted for just 32 percent of all health care spending in America.  This year, it is being projected that the federal government will account for more than 50 percent of all health care spending in the United States.

#35 The number of Americans on Medicaid soared from 34 million in 2000 to 54 million in 2011, and it is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

#36 In one of my previous articles, I discussed how it is being projected that the number of Americans on Medicare will grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.

#37 If you can believe it, Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars over the next 75 years.  That comes to approximately $328,404 for each and every household in the United States.

#38 In the United States today, more than 61 million Americans receive some form of Social Security benefits.  By 2035, that number is projected to soar to a whopping 91 million.

#39 Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.

#40 When Barack Obama first took office, the U.S. national debt was about 10.6 trillion dollars.  Now it is about 16.2 trillion dollars.  That is an increase of 5.6 trillion dollars in less than 4 years.

#41 The federal government has now run a budget deficit of more than a trillion dollars for four years in a row.

#42 If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.

#43 If you were alive when Jesus Christ was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.

#44 Some suggest that “taxing the rich” is the answer.  Well, if Bill Gates gave every single penny of his entire fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for 15 days.

#45 If the federal government used GAAP accounting standards like publicly traded corporations do, the real federal budget deficit for 2011 would have been 5 trillion dollars instead of 1.3 trillion dollars.

#46 The United States already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain does.

#47 At this point, the United States government is responsible for more than a third of all the government debt in the entire world.

#48 The amount of U.S. government debt held by foreigners is about 5 times larger than it was just a decade ago.

#49 Between 2007 and 2010, U.S. GDP grew by only 4.26%, but the U.S. national debt soared by 61% during that same time period.

#50 The U.S. national debt is now more than 37 times larger than it was when Richard Nixon took us off the gold standard.

#51 The U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.

#52 The U.S. national debt jumped more on the very first day of fiscal year 2013 than it did from 1776 to 1941 combined.

#53 Historically, the interest rate on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has averaged 6.68 percent.  If the average interest rate on U.S. government debt rose to that level today, the U.S. government would find itself spending more than a trillion dollars per year just on interest on the national debt.

#54 A recently revised IMF policy paper entitled “An Analysis of U.S. Fiscal and Generational Imbalances: Who Will Pay and How?” projects that U.S. government debt will rise to about 400 percent of GDP by the year 2050.

#55 Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff is warning that the U.S. government is facing a gigantic tsunami of unfunded liabilities in the coming years that we are counting on our children and our grandchildren to pay.  Kotlikoff speaks of a “fiscal gap” which he defines as “the present value difference between projected future spending and revenue”.  His calculations have led him to the conclusion that the federal government is facing a fiscal gap of 222 trillion dollars in the years ahead.

Please share this article with as many people as you can.  Time is running out to fix these problems.

11 Quotes That Show How Worried The Financial World Is About Europe Right Now

The recent elections in France and in Greece have thrown the global financial system into an uproar.  Fear and worry are everywhere and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.  All of the financial deals that Greece has made over the past few years may be null and void.  Nobody is going to know for sure until a new government is formed, and at this point it looks like that is not going to happen and that there will need to be new elections in June.  All of the financial deals that France has made over the past few years may be null and void as well.  New French President Francois Hollande seems determined to take France on a path away from austerity.  But can France really afford to keep spending money that it does not have?  France has already lost its AAA credit rating and French bond yields have started to move up toward dangerous territory.  And Greek politicians are delusional if they think they have any other choice other than austerity.  Without European bailout money (which they won’t get if they don’t honor their current agreements), nobody is going to want to lend Greece a dime.

And all of this talk about “austerity” is kind of silly anyway.  It isn’t as if either France or Greece was going to have a balanced budget any time soon.  Both nations were still running up huge amounts of debt even under the “austerity” budgets.

But the citizens of both nations have sent a clear message that they are not going to tolerate even a slowdown in government spending.  They want to go back to the debt-fueled prosperity of the last several decades, even if it makes their long-term financial problems a lot worse.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, Greece does not have that option.  Without the bailout money that they are scheduled to get, Greece does not have a prayer of avoiding a disorderly default.  Private investors would have to be insane to lend Greece money if the bailout deal falls apart.  Greece desperately needs the help of the EU, the ECB and the IMF and the only way they are going to get it is if they abide by the terms of the agreements that have already been reached.

The only way that Greece can avoid austerity at this point would be to leave the euro.  Nobody would want to lend money to Greece under that scenario either, but Greece could choose to print huge amounts of their own national currency if they wanted to.

The situation is different in France.  Investors are still willing to lend to France at reasonable interest rates, but if France chooses to run up huge amounts of additional debt at some point they will end up just like Greece.

What is even more important in the short-term is the crumbling of the French/German alliance on European fiscal matters.  Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy were a united front, but now Merkel and Hollande are likely to have conflict after conflict.

Instead of moving in one clear direction, the eurozone is now fractured and tensions are rising.

So what comes next?

Well, investors are not certain what comes next and that has many of them deeply concerned.

The following are 11 quotes that show how worried the financial world is about Europe right now….

#1 Tres Knippa of Kenai Capital Management: “What is going on in Europe is an absolute disaster…the risk-on trade is not the place to be. I want to be out of equities and very, very defensive because the situation in Europe just got worse after those elections.”

#2 Mark McCormick, currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman: “We’re going to have higher tensions, more uncertainty and most likely a weaker euro.”

#3 Nick Stamenkovic, investment strategist at RIA Capital Markets in Edinburgh: “Investors are questioning whether Greece will be a part of the single currency at the end of this year.”

#4 Jörg Asmussen, a European Central Bank executive board member: “Greece needs to be aware that there is no alternative to the agreed reform program if it wants to remain a member of the eurozone”

#5 Tristan Cooper, sovereign debt analyst at Fidelity Worldwide Investment: “A Greek eurozone exit is on the cards although the probability and timing of such an event is uncertain.”

#6 Art Cashin: “Here’s the outlook on Greece from Wall Street watering holes. If a coalition government is formed or looks to be formed, global markets may rally. Any coalition is unlikely to make progress on goals, since austerity is political suicide. There will likely be another election around June 10/17. A workable majority/plurality remains unlikely, so back to square one. Therefore, Greece will be unable to attain goals by the deadline (June 30). Lacking aid funds, pensions are suspended and government workers are laid off. Protestors take to the streets and government is forced to revert to drachma to avoid social chaos. Pass the peanuts, please.”

#7 John Noonan, Senior Forex Analyst with Thomson Reuters in Sydney: “Sentiment is very bearish, The euro is under a lot of pressure right now. I get the feeling that it’s going to be a nasty move lower for the euro finally”

#8 Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard: “A Greek exit would underscore that there’s no realistic long-term plan for Europe, and it would lead to a chaotic endgame for the rest of the euro zone.”

#9 Chris Tinker of Libra Investment Services: “It’s a binary decision. If Greece gets itself to the point where the European administration says, ‘We can’t play this game anymore,’ that starts a domino effect”

#10 Nicolas Véron, a senior fellow at Bruegel: “France has very limited fiscal space and actually has to engage in fiscal consolidation”

#11 80-year-old Greek citizen Panagiota Makri: “I’m confused. I feel numb and confused. Only God can save us now”

All of this comes at a time when much of Europe is already descending into a new recession.  Economies all over Europe are contracting and unemployment rates are skyrocketing.  Until things start improving, there is going to continue to be a lot of civil unrest across Europe.

Meanwhile, things are not so great in the United States either.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon claims that the U.S. economy is holding a “royal straight flush“, but the only part of that he got right was the “flush” part.

There are 100 million working age Americans that do not have jobs, the middle class continues to shrink, the rising cost of food and the rising cost of gas are severely stretching the budgets of millions of American families and the federal government continues to run up gigantic amounts of debt.

When Europe descends into financial chaos, the United States is not going to escape it.  The financial crisis of 2008 deeply affected the entire globe, and so will the next great financial crisis.

Let us hope that we still have a little bit more time before the next great financial crisis strikes, but things in Europe are rapidly unraveling and at some point the dominoes are going to begin to fall.

Rich vs Poor: 14 Funny Statistics And 14 Not So Funny Statistics About This “Economic Recovery”

Today there are two very different Americas.  In one America, the stock market is soaring, huge bonuses are taken for granted, the good times are rolling and people are spending money as if they will be able to “live the dream” for the rest of their lives.  In the other America, the one where most of the rest of us live, unemployment is rampant, a million families were kicked out of their homes last year and hordes of American families are drowning in debt.  The gap between the rich and the poor is bigger today than it ever has been before.  In fact, this article is not so much about “rich vs poor” as it is about “the rich vs the rest of us”.  Barack Obama and Ben Bernanke keep touting an “economic recovery”, but the truth is that the only ones that seem to be benefiting from this recovery are those at the very top of the economic food chain.

Below you will find 14 funny statistics about this economic recovery and 14 not so funny statistics about this economic recovery.  Actually, if you find yourself deeply struggling in this economy you will probably not find any of the statistics funny.  In fact, you will probably find most of them infuriating.  After all, there are very few people that actually enjoy hearing about how well the rich are doing when they are barely able to pay the mortgage and put food on the table.

In any event, the 28 statistics below show the stark contrast between the “two Americas” that share this nation today.  Many liberals will likely try to use these statistics as an example of why we should tax the rich.  But handing more money to the government is not going to magically create more jobs for the poor.  What the American people desperately need are good jobs, and many liberals don’t seem to understand that.  Many conservatives will likely try to use these statistics as evidence that “capitalism” is working.  But the truth is that what we have in the United States today is not capitalism.  Rather, it is more aptly described as “corporatism”, because money and power is increasingly becoming concentrated in the hands of gigantic corporations that individuals and small businesses simply cannot compete with.  The truth is that when wealth is concentrated at the very top it does not “trickle down” to the rest of us.  In the old days the wealthy at least were forced to hire the rest of us to run their factories and their businesses, but with the advent of globalism that isn’t even true anymore.  Now they can just move their factories and businesses overseas to places where they can legally pay slave labor wages to their employees.

Very large concentrations of money and power are almost always bad for the prosperity of average citizens.  Our founding fathers never intended for our central government to have so much power and they never intended for giant corporations to have so much power.  But we have abandoned the principles of our founding fathers.

When large concentrations of power (whether governmental or corporate) are allowed to flourish, it almost becomes inevitable that the gap between the rich and the poor will grow.  We are seeing this happen all over the world today.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that any of this is going to change any time soon.  In the United States, both the federal government and multinational corporations are constantly attempting to grab even more power.  It has gotten to the point where individual Americans really don’t have much power left at all.

In any event, hopefully you will find the following statistics informative or at least entertaining.  The wealthy are most definitely enjoying an “economic recovery” while most of the rest of us are still really struggling….

Funny – Who said that the titans of Wall Street couldn’t look hot?  According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, facelifts for men jumped 14 percent last year.

Not Funny – According to the U.S. Labor Department, unemployment actually increased in 351 of the 372 largest U.S. cities during the month of January.

Funny – The average bonus for a worker on Wall Street in 2010 was only $128,530.  It appears that more Wall Street bailouts may be needed.

Not Funny – During this most recent economic downturn, employee compensation in the United States has been the lowest that it has been relative to gross domestic product in over 50 years.

Funny – According to DataQuick Information Systems, the sale of million dollars homes rose an average of 18.6 percent in the top 20 major metro areas in the U.S. in 2010.  But is spending a million dollars on one house really worth it?  After all, over the past several years there have been times when you could buy a house in some bad areas of Detroit for just one dollar.

Not Funny – In 2010, for the first time ever more than a million U.S. families lost their homes to foreclosure, and that number is expected to go even higher in 2011.

Funny – According to Moody’s Analytics, the wealthiest 5% of households in the United States now account for approximately 37% of all consumer spending.  Most of the rest of us don’t have much discretionary income to spend these days, but at least we have Justin Bieber, American Idol and Dancing with the Stars to keep us entertained.

Not FunnyAccording to Gallup, the U.S. unemployment rate in mid-March was 10.2%, which was virtually unchanged from the 10.3% figure that it was sitting at exactly one year ago.

FunnyAccording to the Wall Street Journal, sales of private jumbo jets to the ultra-wealthy are absolutely soaring….

Sales of private jumbo jets are so strong that Airbus and Boeing now have special sales forces devoted to potentates and the hyper-rich.

Not Funny – There are now over 6.4 million Americans that have given up looking for work completely.  That number has increased by about 30 percent since the economic downturn began.

Funny – Porsche recently reported that sales increased by 29 percent during 2010.  Even Porsche jokes are coming back into style….

Question: Why did the blonde try and steal a police car?

Answer: She saw “911” on the back and thought it was a Porsche.

Not Funny – Approximately half of all American workers make $25,000 a year or less.

Funny – Cadillac recently reported that sales increased by 36 percent during 2010.

Not Funny – According to the U.S. Energy Department, the average U.S. household will spend approximately $700 more on gasoline in 2011 than it did during 2010.

Funny – Rolls-Royce recently reported that sales increased by 171 percent during 2010.

Not Funny – According to a new study by America’s Research Group, approximately 75 percent of all Americans are doing less shopping because of rising gasoline prices.

FunnyAccording to the New York Post, Barack Obama enjoyed a total of 10 separate vacations that stretched over a total of 90 vacation days during the years of 2009 and 2010.  Apparently Barack Obama was not talking about himself when he told the American people the following….

“If you’re a family trying to cut back, you might skip going out to dinner, or you might put off a vacation.”

Not Funny – When 2007 began, 26 million Americans were on food stamps.  Today, an all-time record 44 million Americans are on food stamps.

Funny – Ralph Lauren reported a 24 percent increase in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2010.  It is good to know that preppies are thriving in this economy.

Not Funny – The Ivex Packaging Paper plant in Joliet, Illinois is shutting down for good after 97 years in business.  79 good jobs will be lost.  Meanwhile, China has become the number one producer of paper products in the entire world.

Funny – Luxury jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co. recently announced that their profits increased by 29 percent in the 4th quarter of 2010.  All of the men that did not buy their women jewelry during the holidays are trying to keep this particular news item from getting passed around.

Not Funny – Average household debt in the United States has now reached a level of 136% of average household income.

Funny – In 2009, only 18,288 vehicles with a price tag of $100,000 or more were sold in the United States.  In 2010, 32,144 such vehicles were sold.  It appears that “showing off for chicks” is now very much back in style.

Not Funny – The U.S. economy now has 10 percent fewer “middle class jobs” than it did just ten years ago.

Funny – Porsche has announced that they will soon be taking orders for their first hybrid sports car, the 918 Spyder.  The price tag on one of these puppies will only be $845,000.

Not Funny – The average CEO now makes approximately 185 times more money than the average American worker.

Funny – Barack Obama recently played only his 61st round of golf since moving into the White House.  Many are now concerned that Obama is simply not getting enough free time.

Not Funny – According to one recent study, 21 percent of all children in the United States were living below the poverty line during 2010.

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