The Beginning Of The End
The Beginning Of The End By Michael T. Snyder - Kindle Version

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Will The New Housing Bubble That Bernanke Is Creating End As Badly As The Last One Did?

Will The New Housing Bubble Lead To Another Housing Crash?Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has done it.  He has succeeded in creating a new housing bubble.  By driving mortgage rates down to the lowest level in 100 years and recklessly printing money with wild abandon, Bernanke has been able to get housing prices to rebound a bit.  In fact, in some of the more prosperous areas of the country you would be tempted to think that it is 2005 all over again.  If you can believe it, in some areas of the country builders are actually holding lotteries to see who will get the chance to buy their homes.  Wow – that sounds great, right?  Unfortunately, this “housing recovery” is not based on solid economic fundamentals.  As you will see below, this is a recovery that is being led by investors.  They are paying cash for cheap properties that they believe will appreciate rapidly in the coming years.  Meanwhile, the homeownership rate in the United States continues to decline.  It is now the lowest that it has been since 1995.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  Number one, there has not been a jobs recovery in the United States.  The percentage of working age Americans with a job has not rebounded at all and is still about the exact same place where it was at the end of the last recession.  Secondly, crippling levels of student loan debt continue to drive down the percentage of young people that are buying homes.  So no, this is not a real housing recovery.  It is an investor-led recovery that is mostly limited to the more prosperous areas of the country.  For example, the median sale price of a home in Washington D.C. just hit a new all-time record high.  But this bubble will not last, and when this new housing bubble does burst, will it end as badly as the last one did?

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has stated over and over that one of his main goals is to “support the housing market” (i.e. get housing prices to go up).  It took a while, but it looks like he is finally getting his wish.  According to USA Today, U.S. home prices have been rising at the fastest rate in nearly seven years…

U.S. home prices in the USA’s 20 biggest cities rose 9.3% in the 12 months ending in February. It was the biggest annual growth rates in almost seven years, a closely watched housing index out Tuesday said.

In particular, home prices have been rising most rapidly in cities that experienced a boom during the last housing bubble…

Year over year, Phoenix continued to stand out with a gain of 23%, followed by San Francisco at almost 19% and Las Vegas at nearly 18%, the S&P/Case-Shiller index showed. Most of the cities seeing the biggest gains also fell hardest during the crash.

But is this really a reason for celebration?  Instead of addressing the fundamental problems in our economy that caused the last housing crash, Bernanke has been seemingly obsessed with reinflating the housing bubble.  As a recent article by Edward Pinto explained, the housing market is being greatly manipulated by the government and by the Fed…

While a housing recovery of sorts has developed, it is by no means a normal one. The government continues to go to extraordinary lengths to prop up sales by guaranteeing nearly 90% of new mortgage debt, financing half of all home purchase mortgages to buyers with zero equity at closing, driving mortgage interest rates to the lowest level in 100 years, and turning the Fed into the world’s largest buyer of new mortgage debt.

Thus, with real incomes essentially stagnant, this is a market recovery largely driven by low interest rates and plentiful government financing. This is eerily familiar to the previous government policy-induced boom that went bust in 2006, and from which the country is still struggling to recover. Creating over a trillion dollars in additional home value out of thin air does sound like a variant of dropping money out of helicopters.

And the Obama administration has been pushing very hard to get lenders to give mortgages to those with “weaker credit”.  In other words, the government is once again trying to get the banks to give home loans to people that cannot afford them.  The following is from the Washington Post

The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery but that skeptics say could open the door to the risky lending that caused the housing crash in the first place.

President Obama’s economic advisers and outside experts say the nation’s much-celebrated housing rebound is leaving too many people behind, including young people looking to buy their first homes and individuals with credit records weakened by the recession.

We are repeating so many of the same mistakes that we made the last time.

But surely things will turn out differently this time, right?

I wouldn’t count on it.

Right now, an increasingly large percentage of homes are being purchased as investments.  The following is from a recent Washington Times article…

Much of the pickup in sales and prices has been powered by investors who, convinced that the market is bottoming, are scooping up bountiful supplies of distressed and foreclosed properties at bargain prices and often paying with cash.

With investors targeting lower-priced homes that they intend to purchase and rent out, they have been crowding out many first-time buyers who are having difficulty getting mortgage loans and are at a disadvantage when competing with well-heeled buyers. Cash sales to investors now account for about one-third of all home sales, according to the National Association of Realtors.

And as we have seen in the past, an investor-led boom can turn into an investor-led bust very rapidly.

If this truly was a real housing recovery, the percentage of Americans that own a home would be going up.

Instead, it is going down.

As I mentioned above, the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting that the homeownership rate in the United States is now the lowest that it has been since 1995.

In particular, homeownership among college-educated young people is way down.  They can’t afford to buy homes due to crippling levels of student loan debt

For the average homeowner, the worst news is that these overleveraged and defaulting young borrowers no longer qualify for other kinds of loans — particularly home loans. In 2005, nearly nine percent of 25- to 30-year-olds with student debt were granted a mortgage. By late last year, that percentage, as an annual rate, was down to just above four percent.

The most precipitous drop was among those who owe $100,000 or more. New mortgages among these more deeply indebted borrowers have declined 10 percentage points, from above 16 percent in 2005 to a little more than 6 percent today.

“These are the people you’d expect to buy big houses,” said student loan expert Heather Jarvis. “They owe a lot because they have a lot of education. They have been through professional and graduate schools, but their payments are so significant, they have trouble getting a mortgage. They have mortgage-sized loans already.”

And the truth is that there simply are not enough good jobs in this country to support a housing recovery.  In a previous article, I used the government’s own statistics to prove that there has not been a jobs recovery.  If we were having a jobs recovery, the percentage of working age Americans with a job would be going up.  Sadly, that is not happening…

Employment-Population Ratio 2013

And as I mentioned above, the “housing recovery” is mostly happening in the prosperous areas of the country.

In other areas of the United States, the devastating results of the last housing crash are still clearly apparent.

For example, the city of Dayton, Ohio is dealing with an estimated 7,000 abandoned properties.

As I wrote about the other day, there are approximately 70,000 abandoned buildings in Detroit, Michigan.

And all over the nation there are still “ghost towns” that were created when builders abruptly abandoned housing developments during the last recession.  You can see some pictures of some of these ghost towns right here.

So the truth is that this is an isolated housing recovery that is being led by investors and that is being fueled by very reckless behavior by the Federal Reserve.  It is not based on economic reality whatsoever.

In the end, will the collapse of this new housing bubble be as bad as the collapse of the last one was?

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

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

The Student Loan Debt Bubble Is Creating Millions Of Modern Day Serfs

Every single year, millions of young adults head off to colleges and universities all over America full of hopes and dreams.  But what most of those fresh-faced youngsters do not realize is that by taking on student loan debt they are signing up for a life of debt slavery.  Student loan debt has become a trillion dollar bubble which has shattered the financial lives of tens of millions of young college graduates.  When you are just starting out and you are not making a lot of money, having to make payments on tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt can be absolutely crippling.  The total amount of student loan debt in the United States has now surpassed the total amount of credit card debt, and student loan debt is much harder to get rid of.  Many young people view college as a “five year party“, but when the party is over millions of those young people basically end up as modern day serfs as they struggle to pay off all of the debt that they have accumulated during their party years.  Bankruptcy laws have been changed to make it incredibly difficult to get rid of student loan debt, so once you have it you are basically faced with two choices: either you are going to pay it or you are going to die with it.

But we don’t warn kids about this before they go to school.  We just endlessly preach to them that they need a college degree in order to get a “good job”, and that after they graduate they will easily be able to pay off their student loans with the “good job” that they will certainly be able to find.

Sadly, tens of millions of young Americans have left college in recent years only to find out that they were lied to all along.

As I have written about previously, college has become a giant money making scam and the victims of the scam are our young people.

Back in 1952, a full year of tuition at Harvard was only $600.

Today, it is over $35,000.

Why does college have to cost so much?

At every turn our young people are being ripped off.

For example, the cost of college textbooks has tripled over the past decade.

Has it suddenly become a lot more expensive to print books?

Of course not.

The truth is that an entire industry saw an opportunity to gouge students and they went for it.

The amount of money being spent on higher education in this country is absolutely outrageous.  One father down in Texas says that he will end up spending about 1.5 million dollars on college expenses for his five daughters before it is all said and done.

Unfortunately, most young adults in America don’t have wealthy fathers so they have to take out large student loans to pay for their educations.

Average student loan debt at graduation is estimated to be about $28,720 right now.

That is a crazy figure and it has absolutely soared in recent years.  In fact, student loan debt in America has grown by 511 percent since 1999.

And student loan debt will follow you wherever you go.

If you do not pay your loans when you graduate, you could end up having your wages, your tax refunds and even your Social Security benefits garnished.

In addition, your account could be turned over to the debt collectors and they can be absolutely brutal.

The student loan debt bubble is the best thing to happen to debt collectors in ages.  The following is what one professional who works in the industry said in a recent article that he wrote for a debt collection industry publication….

As I wandered around the crowd of NYU students at their rally protesting student debt at the end of February, I couldn’t believe the accumulated wealth they represented – for our industry.

It was lip-smacking.

At my right, to graphically display how she was debt-burdened, was a girl wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the fine sum of $90,000, another with $65,000, a third with $20,000 and over there a really attractive $120,000 was printed on another shirt.  Guys were shouldering their share, with t-shirts of $20,000, $15,000, $27,000, $33,000 and $75,000.

There is no way that our young people can afford to take on those kinds of debt loads, and that is one reason why student loan delinquency rates continue to surge.

In fact, the student loan default rate in the United States has nearly doubled since 2005.

Today, one out of every six Americans that owes money on a student loan is in default.

One out of every six.

And it is going to get a whole lot worse.

At this point there are about 5.9 million Americans that are at least 12 months behind on their student loan payments.

So could the bursting of the student loan bubble do tremendous damage to our financial system?

Don’t worry – Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is promising that the student loan debt bubble won’t cause a crisis.

And you can trust him, right?

For those living with the burden of unpaid student loan debt, life can be really tough.  Some try to avoid the debt collectors, but it is easier said than done.  The following is from a recent article in the New York Times….

Hiding from the government is not easy.

“I keep changing my phone number,” said Amanda Cordeiro, 29, from Clermont, Fla., who dropped out of college in 2010 and has fielded as many as seven calls a day from debt collectors trying to recover her $55,000 in overdue loans. “In a year, this is probably my fourth phone number.”

Unlike private lenders, the federal government has extraordinary tools for collection that it has extended to the collection firms. Ms. Cordeiro has already had two tax refunds seized, and other debtors have had their paychecks or Social Security payments garnisheed.

The biggest problem, of course, is that there are not nearly enough jobs for the hordes of college graduates that our system produces each year.

During 2011, 53 percent of all Americans with a bachelor’s degree under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed.

So without a good job, how are those young people supposed to service their student loans?

Once upon a time, a college degree was a guaranteed ticket to the middle class.

Sadly, those days are long gone.  Today, millions upon millions of college graduates have taken jobs that do not even require a college education.  The following is from a recent CNBC article….

In the last year, they were more likely to be employed as waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined (100,000 versus 90,000). There were more working in office-related jobs such as receptionist or payroll clerk than in all computer professional jobs (163,000 versus 100,000). More also were employed as cashiers, retail clerks and customer representatives than engineers (125,000 versus 80,000).

You probably know young people who have experienced the “wake up call” that comes as a result of entering the “real world” in this horrible economic environment.

It is not easy out there.

And this can be extremely disappointing for parents as well.  How would you feel if your daughter got very high grades all of the way through college and ended up working as a waitress because she couldn’t find anything else?

Even those that pursue advanced degrees are having an extremely challenging time finding work in this economy.

For example, a Business Insider article from a while back profiled a law school graduate named Erin that is actually on food stamps….

She remains on food stamps so her social life suffers. She can’t afford a car, so she has to rely on the bus to get around Austin, Texas, where she lives. And currently unable to pay back her growing pile of law school debt, Gilmer says she wonders if she will ever be able to pay it back.

“That has been really hard for me,” she says. “I have absolutely no credit anymore. I haven’t been able to pay loans. It’s scary, and it’s a hard thing to think you’re a lawyer but you’re impoverished. People don’t understand that most lawyers actually aren’t making the big money.”

And the really sad thing is that the quality of the education that our young people are receiving is very poor.  I spent eight years attending U.S. universities, and most parents would be absolutely shocked at how little our college students are actually learning.

Going to college really has become a ticket to party for four or five or six years with a little bit of “education” thrown in.

But our society has put a very high value on those little pieces of paper called “diplomas” so we all continue to play along with the charade.

Some college students are finding other “creative” ways to pay for their educations other than going into tremendous amounts of debt.  For example, an increasing number of young women are seeking out “sugar daddies” who will “sponsor” their educations.  The following is from a Huffington Post article about this disturbing trend….

On a Sunday morning in late May, Taylor left her Harlem apartment and boarded a train for Greenwich, Conn. She planned on spending the day with a man she had met online, but not in person.

Taylor, a 22-year-old student at Hunter College, had confided in her roommate about the trip and they agreed to swap text messages during the day to make sure she was safe.

Once in Greenwich, a man who appeared significantly older than his advertised age of 42 greeted Taylor at the train station and then drove her to the largest house she had ever seen. He changed into his swimming trunks, she put on a skimpy bathing suit, and then, by the side of his pool, she rubbed sunscreen into the folds of his sagging back — bracing herself to endure an afternoon of sex with someone she suspected was actually about 30 years her senior.

Of course that young woman will probably deeply regret doing that later on in her life.

Once graduation comes, millions upon millions of our young people are discovering that it is really hard to be financially independent if you are drowning in student loan debt and you can’t find a good job.

So what are they doing?

They are moving back in with Mom and Dad.

One poll discovered that 29 percent of all Americans in the 25 to 34 year old age bracket are still living with their parents.

Ouch.

So what do you think about all of this?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

Ben Bernanke Says That His Son Will Graduate With $400,000 Of Student Loan Debt

Who ever imagined that Ben Bernanke would become a poster child for the student loan debt problem in America?  Recently Bernanke told Congress that his son will graduate from medical school with about $400,000 of student loan debt.  For most Americans, such a staggering amount of debt would almost certainly guarantee a lifetime of debt slavery.  Unfortunately, Bernanke’s son is not alone.  According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, approximately 167,000 Americans have more than $200,000 of student loan debt.  The cost of a college education has increased much more rapidly than the rate of inflation over the past several decades, and most students enter the “real world” today with a debt burden that will stay with them for most of their working lives.  In an economy where there are so few good jobs for college graduates, it can be incredibly difficult to get married, buy a house or afford to have children when you are drowning in student loan debt.  It would be hard to overstate the financial pain that student loans are causing many young adults in America today.  The student loan debt problem is a national crisis and it is not going away any time soon.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says that the total amount of student loan debt in America now exceeds the total of all credit card debt in the country.  It also exceeds the total of all auto loans.

The New York Fed says that there is a total of $870 billion owed on student loans in the United States right now.  Other sources claim that the total amount of student loan debt in the United States will soon exceed one trillion dollars.

Either way, we are talking about an extraordinary amount of money.

Sadly, approximately two-thirds of all U.S. college students graduate with student loan debt these days.  The average amount of student loan debt at graduation is approximately $25,000.

That might not be so bad if the economy was full of good paying jobs for college graduates, but that simply is not the case.

As college tuition continues to soar, the student loan debt problem continues to get even worse.  U.S. college students are borrowing about twice as much money as they did a decade ago after adjusting for inflation.

That is not a good trend.

The truth is that it has simply gotten way too expensive to go to college.

Back in 1952, a full year of tuition at Harvard was only $600.

Today, the price tag is $35,568.

So why is a Harvard education 59 times more expensive than it used to be?

Somebody is getting rich off of all this, and it isn’t the students.

In fact, many students are looking at a life of debt slavery for decades to come.

The following is a quote from one recent graduate from a recent Politico article….

“I pay almost $1,000 a month just in student loan repayment. I will have to do so for the next 30 years. How will I ever afford to buy a house, have children or save for the future?”

After working so hard all the way through school, is that any kind of a “future” to look forward to?

The system is failing our young people.

Many young college graduates have found themselves unable to make their payments or have simply decided to quit making payments.

Officially, the student loan default rate has nearly doubled since 2005.  But a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York says that things may be even worse than that.  According to the New York Fed, approximately one out of every four student loan balances are past-due at this point.

But it isn’t just young people getting into trouble with student loan debt.

These days, financial institutions are increasingly targeting parents.  Federal student loans often do not cover all of the expenses of college in this day and age, and so increasingly loans are being made to parents to make up the difference.  Student loans made to directly to parents have increased by 75 percent since the 2005-2006 academic year.

Unfortunately, what students and parents are getting in return for all of this money is not that great.

I spent eight years of my life studying at U.S. colleges and universities.  The institutions that I attended were supposed to be better than most.  But most of the classes that I took were a total joke.  A 6-year-old child could have passed most of them.

Almost everyone agrees that the quality of college education in America is in a serious state of decline.  The goal is to get these kids through the system and to keep collecting the big tuition checks.

When I was in school, I could hardly believe how little was being required of me.  But being as lazy as I was, I certainly did not complain.

If only more parents realized what was really going on.

The following are some facts about the quality of college education in the United States from a USA Today article….

-“After two years in college, 45% of students showed no significant gains in learning; after four years, 36% showed little change.”

-“Students also spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago”

-“35% of students report spending five or fewer hours per week studying alone.”

-“50% said they never took a class in a typical semester where they wrote more than 20 pages”

-“32% never took a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.”

Are you starting to get the picture?

If you are in college right now, enjoy the good times while they last, because when you graduate you will find that there are very few good jobs available for the hordes of new college graduates that are pouring into the labor market.

For a new college graduate, things can be rather depressing.  Just consider the following statistics….

*About a third of all college graduates end up taking jobs that don’t even require college degrees.

*In the United States today, there are more than 100,000 janitors that have college degrees.

*In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.

There are millions of college graduates that are unemployed in America today.  There are millions of others that have been forced to take very low paying jobs because that is all they can get.

It is no coincidence that incomes for households led by someone between the ages of 25 and 34 have fallen by about 12 percent after you adjust for inflation since the year 2000.

Young people in America are under intense financial pressure right now.

Many are unable to make it at all and have moved back in with Mom and Dad.  As I wrote about recently, approximately 25 million American adults are living with their parents at this point.

The system of higher education in this country is badly broken and it desperately needs to be fixed.

So do you have a solution to these problems or do you have a student loan debt horror story to share?

Please feel free to leave a comment with your opinion below….

Underemployed And Hating Life

Today, millions of smart, hard working Americans are flipping burgers, waiting tables or working dead end retail jobs not because they want to, but because they have no other options.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 14 million Americans are currently unemployed and another 9.3 million Americans are currently “underemployed”.  During this economic downturn, a lot of Americans have been forced to take part-time jobs because they have been unable to find full-time jobs.  For many, this can be a soul-crushing experience.  It can be easy to become very bitter when you have worked very hard all your life and yet you find yourself having to take a job that only pays you a fraction of what you used to make.  A lot of young college graduates end up hating life because the only jobs that they can seem to find do not even require a college degree and don’t even come close to enabling them to keep up with their crippling student loan debt payments.  Sadly, the underemployment problem continues to grow even worse.  In September alone, the number of underemployed Americans rose by close to half a million.

There are other measurements that indicate that unemployment in America is even worse that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is indicating.

For example, a recent Gallup poll found that approximately one out of every five Americans that currently have a job consider themselves to be underemployed.

In addition, according to author Paul Osterman about 20 percent of all U.S. adults are currently working jobs that pay poverty-level wages.

When you try as hard as you can and you still can’t pay the bills, it is easy to end up hating life.

What some Americans are going through is absolutely heart breaking.  Just consider the following story from a recent article on Fox News….

Damian Birkel, of Winston-Salem N.C., found himself in similar circumstances. He was a marketing manager at Sarah Lee in the early 1990s when he was downsized. Since then, he has been laid off from three other jobs, including one at a recruiting firm.

“I felt like I had ‘loser’ tattooed to my forehead, and ‘will work for food’ tattooed to my chest,” he says. 

The hardest part was telling his young daughter that there might not be enough money to pay the bills — among them, sending her to summer camp. “She brings her piggy bank and says, ‘Daddy, why don’t you break into the piggy bank so that you can pay some of the bills.’”

How would you feel if your little daughter said that to you?

Unfortunately, the number of good jobs just continues to decrease.

There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million extra people to the population since then.

And the mix of jobs that our economy is producing continues to change.

Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

What that means is that the middle class is shrinking.

A lot of young people are coming out of college right now and are having their dreams absolutely crushed.  Large numbers of them are entering the “real world” with nightmarish student loan debt burdens and only a limited number of them can find decent jobs.

A recent USA Today article told the story of one of these very frustrated young Americans….

Kate Wolfe chased a dream when she moved to New York after college, looking to break into acting while working as a maître d’.

Her $50,000 worth of student loans were a distraction she could handle. Then the uninsured 25-year-old was mugged last year, and the final indignity was the $30,000 emergency room bill.

We are pumping out tons of college graduates, but we are not pumping out nearly enough jobs for all of them.

If you can believe it, in the United States today there are 317,000 waiters and waitresses that actually have college degrees.

That is an absolutely horrifying statistic.

But the truth is that the lack of good jobs is hitting every age level really hard.

For example, the average American family is under a tremendous amount of financial stress in this economy.  Once you adjust it for inflation, median household income in the United States has declined approximately 10 percent since December 2007.

Meanwhile, the cost of food, gas, health insurance and just about everything else a family needs has gone up significantly.

Our politicians keep talking about “jobs, jobs, jobs” but the number of decent jobs continues on a very clear downward trend.

Back in 1980, 52 percent of all jobs in the United States were middle income jobs.  Today, only 42 percent of all jobs in the United States are middle income jobs.

Sadly, it now looks like even the low income jobs are starting to dry up.

Mall vacancies recently hit a brand new all-time record.  Major retail chains all over the country are announcing layoffs.  Things do not look very promising for the upcoming holiday season.

So what are our leaders doing about all of this?

Well, unfortunately they continue to fumble the football very badly.

According to a recent ABC News report, the U.S. government actually gave a $529 million loan guarantee to an electric car company that decided to make its cars in Finland….

Vice President Joseph Biden heralded the Energy Department’s $529 million loan to the start-up electric car company called Fisker as a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs. But two years after the loan was announced, the job of assembling the flashy electric Fisker Karma sports car has been outsourced to Finland.

If we don’t figure out how to stop millions of jobs from leaving this country we are going to be in a world of hurt.

The trade policies of the federal government are neither “free” nor “fair” and they are causing the standard of living of American workers to rapidly sink toward the level of the rest of the world.

We are told that it is “inevitable” that we are going to be deindustrialized and that we are going to become a service economy.

But guess what?

Service jobs generally pay a lot less than manufacturing jobs do.

A “one world economy” where our labor force is merged with the labor forces of the rest of the globe is not a good thing for the average American worker and it is not a good thing for America.

But of course trade is not the only reason why we are losing good jobs.  There are a whole bunch of reasons why this is happening.  For many more reasons, just check out this article.

A lot of you that are reading this article are unemployed or underemployed right now.

Unfortunately, there is not much hope that the U.S. economy is going to experience a significant turnaround any time soon.

In fact, it is likely that things are going to be getting even worse.

Our economic system is dying.  Now is the time to try to get as independent of it as you can.

Don’t count on a job (“just over broke”) as your only source of income.  In this economy, no job is safe.

There are millions upon millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans that never dreamed that their lives would go so horribly wrong.

But they did.

Our nation is experiencing the consequences of decades of very bad decisions.

There is no help on the horizon and the cavalry is not on the way to rescue us.

You better prepare accordingly.

30 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is About To Go Into The Toilet

If you think the U.S. economy is bad now, just wait for a few months.  Things are about to become absolutely nightmarish.  None of the long-term economic trends that are hollowing out our economy have been addressed and more bad economic news seems to come out virtually every single day.  Now there is constant talk of the “next recession” in the mainstream media.  But did the last recession ever truly end?  The number of good jobs continues to decline, more stores are closing, incomes continue to go down, credit card debt and student loan debt are soaring, the housing market resembles a corpse, the number of Americans living in poverty continues to rise and government debt is at unprecedented levels.  We are losing blood fast, and almost all of our leaders are either too corrupt or too incompetent to be able to do anything about it.  The U.S. economy really and truly is about to go into the toilet, and if something is not done very quickly we are going to experience a complete and total economic disaster in this nation.

Americans have been promised over and over that this economic downturn is just “temporary” and that things will return to normal soon.  During this upcoming election cycle, the Democrats will swear that they have all the answers and that if we just elect them everything will be okay.  The Republicans will also swear that they have all the answers and that if we just elect them everything will be okay.

Well, both sides are lying.  The economic plans of both major political parties are a joke.  Neither of them can restore economic prosperity to this nation.

Our politicians could delay the coming economic collapse by borrowing gigantic piles of money and pumping all of that cash into the economy.  But stealing from our children and our grandchildren is not exactly sound economic policy.

Yes, the U.S. economy is in bad shape right now, but things are about to get even worse.  The long-term problems that are destroying our economy have not been fixed, and the leaks in our ship are going to continue to grow.

The following are 30 signs that the U.S. economy is about to go into the toilet….

#1 An increasing number of unemployed Americans have become so desperate that they have started to look for work overseas.  For example, the number of Americans that are submitting applications for temporary work visas in Canada has approximately doubled since 2008.  Other Americans are willing to learn foreign languages and travel to the other side of the world if that is what it takes to land a decent job.  Just consider the following quote from a recent USA Today report….

Job placement firms are reporting a surge in American worker interest in booming economies such as Hong Kong, Singapore, China and, increasingly, India. Hunt Partners, an executive search firm, estimates that it’s getting 50% to 100% more unsolicited résumés from Americans looking for Asia-based positions today than before the recession.

#2 When Barack Obama first took office, the official U.S. unemployment rate was 7.6 percent.  Today it is 9.1 percent.

#3 The number of Americans that are concerned that they will lose their jobs continues to hover near record highs.  According to Gallup, 30 percent of all employed Americans are worried that they will soon be laid off.

#4 After three straight years of very high unemployment, you can feel frustration and desperation in the air almost everywhere that you go.  Many unemployed Americans are now at the end of their ropes.  The following is from a testimonial that was recently posted on The Atlantic….

The most difficult part of the job search is:

1. that I don’t live near a factory or outsource outlet in China, India, or Malaysia.

2. trying not to appear desperate for a job when I am, in fact, quite desperate for a job.

3. that I am subject to everyone’s advice on how to get a job, but no real job leads.

4. that I am reminded that having a good job is not an entitlement.

5. that when I become depressed from my job search, I’m told told to cheer up or else give a bad vibe to prospective employers … yet when I become happy through non-search related activities, I am reminded that I should be looking for work

7. that when I confide to friends and family that I have “given up” to pursue more fruitful interests,  it elicits a crushing look of disbelief, disappointment, and disgust

8. waiting for permission to give up.

#5 The percentage of American men that are employed continues to plummet.  In July, only 63.5 percent of all men in the United States had a job.  Since 1948, that number has only been lower one time (63.3 percent in December 2009).

#6 Back in the 1950s, manufacturing accounted for about 28 percent of U.S. GDP.  Last year, it accounted for just 11.7 percent.  Meanwhile, manufacturing now accounts for about 25 percent of GDP in China and they now actually have more factory production each year than we do.  Sadly, Barack Obama is pushing for even more trade agreements that will send millions more of our jobs overseas.

#7 The percentage of Americans that are working low paying jobs continues to relentlessly march upwards.  Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#8 According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, after you add in all short-term discouraged workers, all long-term discouraged workers and all Americans that are working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment, the real unemployment rate should be approximately 23 percent.

#9 We are starting to see another huge wave of store closings and layoffs.  For example, the parent company of Payless stores has announced that it will be permanently closing 475 stores.  Borders is in the process of closing every single one of its 399 stores.  Also, Bank of America has just announced that it will be closing about 600 branches, and that could result in the loss of about 30,000 good jobs.

#10 Median household income has fallen for three years in a row.

#11 Americans are really starting to rack up consumer debt once again.  According to Time Magazine, U.S. consumers are on pace to collectively add 54 billion dollars in credit card debt in 2011.

#12 Student loan defaults are rising very sharply. Just consider the following excerpt from a recent New York Times article….

The share of federal student loan defaults rose sharply last year, especially at for-profit colleges and universities, where 15 percent of borrowers defaulted in the first two years of repayment, up from 11.6 percent the previous year.

#13 According to a chart in The Economist, whenever the number of newspaper articles in the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal that mention the word “recession” goes over 1,500 in a particular quarter, the U.S. economy almost always goes into a recession.

#14 The U.S. housing crash just continues to get worse.  The index of home builder sentiment put out by the National Association of Home Builders fell once again during the month of September.  With such a glut of unsold foreclosed homes on the market, it is making things really hard of home builders.  Things have gotten so bad that even the U.S. government now owns nearly a quarter of a million foreclosed homes.  The impact of this housing nightmare on families has been absolutely devastating.  Just check out what a recent Time Magazine article had to say about what has been going on in California….

The impact on children has been brutal: since 2007, 7% of the state’s children have had a foreclosure process started on their homes, the fourth-highest level in the nation, according to a study released this month by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

#15 Many believe that due to much tighter lending standards, it is now harder to be approved for a mortgage than at any other time since World War II.  This is absolutely crushing the housing market.

#16 Most Americans don’t seem to expect housing prices to recover for an extended period of time.  One recent survey found that 54 percent of Americans believe that there will not be a housing recovery until “2014 or later“.

#17 The combined debt of the largest GSEs (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Sallie Mae) has increased from 3.2 trillion in 2008 to a whopping 6.4 trillion in 2011.  If that debt goes bad, U.S. taxpayers will be left holding the bill.

#18 There are now nearly 50 million Americans that do not have health insurance, and the percentage of Americans covered by employer-based health plans has fallen for 11 years in a row.  Meanwhile, Americans now spend about 3 times as much on health care as they did back in 1990.

#19 The Postal Service has publicly announced that it is “on the verge” of financial collapse.

#20 The number of small businesses continues to fall.  I recently noted this fact on The American Dream Blog….

The number of “self-employed” Americans continues to rapidly shrink.  According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16.6 million Americans were self-employed back in December 2006.  Today, that number has shrunk to 14.5 million.  Even though we have 14 million unemployed people in this country and jobs are incredibly difficult to come by, the number of people trying to work for themselves continues to decrease because the environment for small businesses in this country has become so incredibly toxic.

#21 American consumers have become tremendously pessimistic.  According to one recent survey, 61 percent of all Americans believe that they will not return to their “pre-recession” lifestyles until at least 2014.  According to a different recent survey, 39 percent of Americans actually believe that the U.S. economy has now entered a “permanent decline”.

#22 Many U.S. investors certainly seem to believe that trouble is coming.  According to CNN, last month the number of bets against the S&P 500 was the highest that we have seen in about a year.

#23 The number of U.S. households that are “doubling up” continues to grow.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of combined households has increased by 10.7 percent since 2007.

#24 When Barack Obama moved into the White House, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States was $1.83.  Today it is $3.58.

#25 The number of Americans living in poverty grew by 2.6 million last year.  That was the largest increase since the U.S. government began calculating poverty figures back in 1959.

#26 Back in the year 2000, 11.3% of all Americans were living in poverty.  Today, 15.1% of all Americans are living in poverty.

#27 On Barack Obama’s first day on the job, there were about 32 million Americans on food stamps.  Today, there are more than 45 million Americans on food stamps.

#28 If there is a financial collapse in Europe, that will definitely plunge us into another recession.  Right now, things do not look promising.  At this point, headlines all over the world are proclaiming that Greece is dangerously close to defaulting.

#29 At some point soon, investors all over the globe may decide that it is time to start dumping U.S. government debt.  For example, Chinese officials are now openly talking about the need to “liquidate” their holdings of U.S. Treasuries.

#30 The U.S. national debt continues to explode in size and spiral out of control.  According to Professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff, the U.S. “fiscal gap” increased by about 6 trillion dollars last year.  In fact, Kotlikoff makes a compelling argument that Greece is actually in better shape financially than the United States is.

Do you now understand how much trouble we are in?

The long-term trends that are destroying us continue to get worse.

The United States is steamrolling directly toward an economic collapse.

When this economy hits bottom and splatters all over the place, it is not going to be easy to fix.

The America that we know today is going to be wiped out by a gigantic mountain of debt and by the consequences of decades of really bad decisions.

We were handed the keys to the greatest economic machine in the history of the world and we have wrecked it.

So prepare for really, really hard times ahead.

The era of endless prosperity is ending.

Next comes the pain.

 

Student Loan Debt Hell: 21 Statistics That Will Make You Think Twice About Going To College

Is going to college a worthwhile investment?  Is the education that our young people are receiving at our colleges and universities really worth all of the time, money and effort that is required?  Decades ago, a college education was quite inexpensive and it was almost an automatic ticket to the middle class.  But today all of that has changed.  At this point, college education is a big business.  There are currently more than 18 million students enrolled at the nearly 5,000 colleges and universities currently in operation throughout the United States.  There are quite a few “institutions of higher learning” that now charge $40,000 or even $50,000 a year for tuition.  That does not even count room and board and other living expenses.  Meanwhile, as you will see from the statistics posted below, the quality of education at our colleges and universities has deteriorated badly.  When graduation finally arrives, many of our college students have actually learned very little, they find themselves unable to get good jobs and yet they end up trapped in student loan debt hell for essentially the rest of their lives.

Across America today, “guidance counselors” are pushing millions of high school students to go to the very best colleges that they can get into, but they rarely warn them about how much it is going to cost or about the sad reality that they could end up being burdened by massive debt loads for decades to come.

Yes, college is a ton of fun and it is a really unique experience.  If you can get someone else to pay for it then you should definitely consider going.

There are also many careers which absolutely require a college degree.  Depending on your career goals, you may not have much of a choice of whether to go to college or not.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to go to student loan debt hell.

You don’t have to go to the most expensive school that you can get into.

You don’t have to take out huge student loans.

There is no shame in picking a school based on affordability.

The truth is that pretty much wherever you go to school the quality of the education is going to be rather pathetic.  A highly trained cat could pass most college courses in the United States today.

Personally, I have had the chance to spend quite a number of years on college campuses.  I enjoyed my time and I have some pretty pieces of parchment to put up on the wall.  I have seen with my own eyes what goes on at our institutions of higher learning.  In a previous article, I described what life is like for most “average students” enrolled in our colleges and universities today….

The vast majority of college students in America spend two to four hours a day in the classroom and maybe an hour or two outside the classroom studying. The remainder of the time these “students” are out drinking beer, partying, chasing after sex partners, going to sporting events, playing video games, hanging out with friends, chatting on Facebook or getting into trouble. When they say that college is the most fun that most people will ever have in their lives they mean it. It is basically one huge party.

If you are a parent and you are shelling out tens of thousands of dollars every year to pay for college you need to know the truth.

You are being ripped off.

Sadly, a college education just is not that good of an investment anymore.  Tuition costs have absolutely skyrocketed even as the quality of education has plummeted.

A college education is not worth getting locked into crippling student loan payments for the next 30 years.

Even many university professors are now acknowledging that student loan debt has become a horrific societal problem. Just check out what one professor was quoted as saying in a recent article in The Huffington Post….

“Thirty years ago, college was a wise, modest investment,” says Fabio Rojas, a professor of sociology at Indiana University. He studies the politics of higher education. “Now, it’s a lifetime lock-in, an albatross you can’t escape.”

Anyone that is thinking of going to college needs to do a cost/benefit analysis.

Is it really going to be worth it?

For some people the answer will be “yes” and for some people the answer will be “no”.

But sadly, hardly anyone that goes to college these days gets a “good” education.

To get an idea of just how “dumbed down” we have become as a nation, just check out this Harvard entrance exam from 1869.

I wouldn’t have a prayer of passing that exam.

What about you?

We really do need to rethink our approach to higher education in this country.

Posted below are 21 statistics about college tuition, student loan debt and the quality of college education in the United States….

#1 Since 1978, the cost of college tuition in the United States has gone up by over 900 percent.

#2 In 2010, the average college graduate had accumulated approximately $25,000 in student loan debt by graduation day.

#3 Approximately two-thirds of all college students graduate with student loans.

#4 Americans have accumulated well over $900 billion in student loan debt. That figure is higher than the total amount of credit card debt in the United States.

#5 The typical U.S. college student spends less than 30 hours a week on academics.

#6 According to very extensive research detailed in a new book entitled “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses”, 45 percent of U.S. college students exhibit “no significant gains in learning” after two years in college.

#7 Today, college students spend approximately 50% less time studying than U.S. college students did just a few decades ago.

#8 35% of U.S. college students spend 5 hours or less studying per week.

#9 50% of U.S. college students have never taken a class where they had to write more than 20 pages.

#10 32% of U.S. college students have never taken a class where they had to read more than 40 pages in a week.

#11 U.S. college students spend 24% of their time sleeping, 51% of their time socializing and 7% of their time studying.

#12 Federal statistics reveal that only 36 percent of the full-time students who began college in 2001 received a bachelor’s degree within four years.

#13 Nearly half of all the graduate science students enrolled at colleges and universities in the United States are foreigners.

#14 According to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for college graduates younger than 25 years old was 9.3 percent in 2010.

#15 One-third of all college graduates end up taking jobs that don’t even require college degrees.

#16 In the United States today, over 18,000 parking lot attendants have college degrees.

#17 In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.

#18 In the United States today, approximately 365,000 cashiers have college degrees.

#19 In the United States today, 24.5 percent of all retail salespersons have a college degree.

#20 Once they get out into the “real world”, 70% of college graduates wish that they had spent more time preparing for the “real world” while they were still in school.

#21 Approximately 14 percent of all students that graduate with student loan debt end up defaulting within 3 years of making their first student loan payment.

There are millions of young college graduates running around out there that are wondering where all of the “good jobs” are.  All of their lives they were promised that if they worked really hard and got good grades that the system would reward them.

Sometimes when you do everything right you still can’t get a job. A while back The Huffington Post featured the story of Kyle Daley – a highly qualified UCLA graduate who had been unemployed for 19 months at the time….

I spent my time at UCLA preparing for the outside world. I had internships in congressional offices, political action committees, non-profits and even as a personal intern to a successful venture capitalist. These weren’t the run-of-the-mill office internships; I worked in marketing, press relations, research and analysis. Additionally, the mayor and city council of my hometown appointed me to serve on two citywide governing bodies, the planning commission and the open government commission. I used to think that given my experience, finding work after graduation would be easy.

At this point, however, looking for a job is my job. I recently counted the number of job applications I have sent out over the past year — it amounts to several hundred. I have tried to find part-time work at local stores or restaurants, only to be turned away. Apparently, having a college degree implies that I might bail out quickly when a better opportunity comes along.

The sad truth is that a college degree is not an automatic ticket to the middle class any longer.

But for millions of young Americans a college degree is an automatic ticket to student loan debt hell.

Student loan debt is one of the most insidious forms of debt.  You can’t get away from student loan debt no matter what you do.  Federal bankruptcy law makes it nearly impossible to discharge student loan debts, and many recent grads end up with loan payments that absolutely devastate them financially at a time when they are struggling to get on their feet and make something of themselves.

So are you still sure that you want to go to college?

Another open secret is that most of our colleges and universities are little more than indoctrination centers.  Most people would be absolutely shocked at how much unfiltered propaganda is being pounded into the heads of our young people.

At most colleges and universities, when it comes to the “big questions” there is a “right answer” and there is virtually no discussion of any other alternatives.

In most fields there is an “orthodoxy” that you had better adhere to if you want to get good grades.

Let’s just say that “independent thought” and “critical thinking” are not really encouraged at most of our institutions of higher learning.

Am I bitter because I didn’t do well?  No, I actually did extremely well in school.  I have seen the system from the inside.  I know how it works.

It is a giant fraud.

If you want to go to college because you want to have a good time or because it will help you get your career started then by all means go for it.

Just realize what you are signing up for.

Money Problems That Never Seem To End: 25 Reasons To Be Absolutely Disgusted With The U.S. Economy

It seems like wherever you turn there is bad news for the U.S. economy.  Unemployment is rampant, the cost of gasoline is going up, the cost of food is going up and American families are getting poorer.  Millions of jobs continue to leave the country and everyone is wondering why it seems like the “American Dream” is dying.  American consumers are absolutely swamped with staggering levels of credit card debt, student loan debt and mortgage debt and each year the consumer debt crisis only seems to get worse.  For millions of American families the money problems never seem to end.  Meanwhile, our politicians are doing next to nothing to fix our horrific national debt problem.  So yes, there are a whole lot of reasons to be absolutely disgusted with the U.S. economy.  We are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, and anyone with half a brain can see that we are heading for complete and total disaster.

A lot of Americans do not like to read about economics, but what has been going on over the last few years has been nothing short of extraordinary.  The Federal Reserve has basically tripled the adjusted monetary base.  We have now been conditioned to accept that trillion dollar deficits are “normal”.  The U.S. dollar is being systematically destroyed right in front of our eyes and most Americans don’t even seem alarmed about it.

Our entire financial system is coming apart.

The signs are everywhere.

The following are 25 reasons to be absolutely disgusted with the U.S. economy….

#1 There are now 6.4 million fewer jobs in America than there were when the recession began.

#2 In Southern California, the average price of a gallon of gasoline is $1.00 higher than it was at this time last year.

#3 The average price of gasoline in the United States has jumped about 20 cents in just the last two weeks.

#4 Over the past 12 months the average price of gasoline in the United States has gone up by about 30%.

#5 In the 8 days leading up to the “historic” $38.5 billion budget deal, the U.S. national debt increased by $54.1 billion dollars.

#6 The $38.5 billion in budget cuts that the Republicans and the Democrats have agreed to represent approximately one percent of the federal budget.

#7 During the 2010 campaign, the Republicans promised voters they would cut $100 billion from the budget for 2011.  Instead, they gave in when the Democrats offered just $38.5 billion.

#8 The Obama administration had been estimating that the federal budget deficit for fiscal 2011 would be approximately 1.6 trillion dollars.  Now it will likely be somewhere around 1.55 trillion dollars which will still be an all-time record.

#9 According to numbers released by Deloitte Consulting, a whopping 875,000 Americans were “medical tourists” in 2010.

#10 The median pay for CEOs increased by 27 percent during 2010.

#11 Thanks to globalism, U.S. workers now must directly compete for jobs with workers in places such as Indonesia.  In Indonesia, full-time workers make as little as two dollars a day.  So how are Americans supposed to compete with that?

#12 Last week, the price of gold set a new all-time record on Tuesday, on Wednesday, on Thursday and on Friday.

#13 The price of silver rose almost 7 percent last week alone.

#14 Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.

#15 According to the Economic Policy Institute, almost 25 percent of U.S. households now have zero net worth or negative net worth.  Back in 2007, that number was just 18.6 percent.

#16 Americans now owe more than $903 billion on student loans.

#17 According to the New York Times, as of 2009 the wealthiest 5 percent of all Americans had 63.5 percent of all the wealth in America.  Meanwhile, the bottom 80 percent had just 12.8 percent of all the wealth.

#18 According to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project, higher wage industries accounted for 40 percent of the job losses over the past 12 months but only 14 percent of the job growth.  Lower wage industries accounted for just 23 percent of the job losses over the past 12 months and a whopping 49 percent of the job growth.

#19 The first week of air strikes in Libya cost the U.S. government about 600 million dollars.

#20 The price of corn has more than doubled over the past year.

#21 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average length of unemployment in the U.S. is now an all-time record 39 weeks.

#22 Back in the 1950s, corporate taxes accounted for about 30 percent of all federal revenue.  Today they account for less than 7 percent of all federal revenue.

#23 If the U.S. government eliminated all discretionary spending and all defense spending it would still not balance the budget.

#24 It is being projected that U.S. government debt will rise to about 400 percent of GDP by the year 2050.

#25 Americans spend approximately 27.7 billion dollars a year preparing their tax returns.

That last statistic really gets me.  During the month of April the American people are going to be spending massive amounts of time and money to prepare their taxes.

But what do Americans get in return for their taxes?

What they get is a government that is completely and totally incompetent.  Our “leaders” are running the greatest economy in the history of the world into the ground, but unfortunately most Americans have no idea what is happening.

Why are Americans so clueless?

Well, the truth is that over time we have been turned into a nation of idiots and morons.

To get an idea of just how “dumbed down” we have become as a nation, just check out this Harvard entrance exam from 1869.

I wouldn’t have a prayer of passing that exam.

What about you?

Thanks to the slothfulness of society, the deficiencies in our education system and the toxins in our food, air and water it has become hard for most of us to think clearly.

Most of us are fat, dumb and totally clueless.  The entire economic system is being shredded and most of us just drool and turn up the television a little louder.

If we have money problems, most of us just run out and apply for another credit card.  If our state and local governments run into financial problems they just borrow even more money.

Of course the biggest offender of all is the federal government.  What our politicians are doing to future generations is not just criminal.  It is beyond criminal.  It is absolutely unconscionable.

So please excuse me if I am absolutely disgusted with the U.S. economy.

We took the greatest economy in the history of the world and we wrecked it.

How in the world are we going to explain this to our children and our grandchildren?

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