The move to a cashless society won’t happen overnight. Instead, it is being implemented very slowly and systematically in a series of incremental steps. All over the planet, governments are starting to place restrictions on the use of cash for security reasons. As citizens, we are being told that this is being done to thwart criminals, terrorists, drug runners, money launderers and tax evaders. Other forms of payment are much easier for governments to track, and so they very much prefer them. But we are rapidly getting to the point where the use of cash is considered to be a “suspicious activity” all by itself. These days, if you pay a hotel bill with cash or if you pay for several hundred dollars worth of goods at a store with cash you are probably going to get looked at funny. You see, the truth is that we have already been trained to regard the use of large amounts of cash to be unusual. The next step will be to formally ban large cash transactions like France and other countries in Europe are already doing.
Starting in September, cash transactions of more than 1,000 euros will be banned in France. The following comes from a recent Zero Hedge article which detailed what these new restrictions will do…
Prohibiting French residents from making cash payments of more than 1,000 euros, down from the current limit of 3,000 euros.
Given the parlous state of the stagnating French economy the limit for foreign tourists on currency payments will remain higher, at 10,000 euros down from the current limit of 15,000 euros.
The threshold below which a French resident is free to convert euros into other currencies without having to show an identity card will be slashed from the current level of 8,000 euros to 1,000 euros.
In addition any cash deposit or withdrawal of more than 10,000 euros during a single month will be reported to the French anti-fraud and money laundering agency Tracfin.
French authorities will also have to be notified of any freight transfers within the EU exceeding 10,000 euros, including checks, pre-paid cards, or gold.
Of course Spain has already banned cash transactions of more than 2,500 euros and Italy has already banned cash transactions of more than 1,000 euros.
We don’t have these kinds of outright bans in the United States just yet, but what we do have are some very strict reporting requirements.
For example, if you regularly deposit large amounts of cash, there is a very good chance that you have been the subject of a “suspicious activity report”. In 2013, approximately 1.6 million suspicious activity reports were submitted to the federal government.
The following guidelines for when a suspicious activity report should be filed come from a government website…
Banks, bank holding companies, and their subsidiaries are required by federal regulations53 to file a SAR with respect to:
- Criminal violations involving insider abuse in any amount.
- Criminal violations aggregating $5,000 or more when a suspect can be identified.
- Criminal violations aggregating $25,000 or more regardless of a potential suspect.
- Transactions conducted or attempted by, at, or through the bank (or an affiliate) and aggregating $5,000 or more, if the bank or affiliate knows, suspects, or has reason to suspect that the transaction:
- May involve potential money laundering or other illegal activity (e.g., terrorism financing).54
- Is designed to evade the BSA or its implementing regulations.55
- Has no business or apparent lawful purpose or is not the type of transaction that the particular customer would normally be expected to engage in, and the bank knows of no reasonable explanation for the transaction after examining the available facts, including the background and possible purpose of the transaction.
Most people don’t realize this, but there are minimum quotas for suspicious activity reports that banks must meet. If they do not submit enough suspicious activity reports, they can be fined (or worse).
And now the Obama administration is saying that just filling out suspicious activity reports may not be good enough.
According to the Wall Street Journal, banks are actually being encouraged to directly contact law enforcement if they see something that does not look right…
The U.S. Justice Department’s criminal head said banks may need to go beyond filing suspicious activity reports when they encounter a risky customer.
“The vast majority of financial institutions file suspicious activity reports when they suspect that an account is connected to nefarious activity,” said assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell in a Monday speech, according to prepared remarks. “But, in appropriate cases, we encourage those institutions to consider whether to take more action: specifically, to alert law enforcement authorities about the problem.”
The remarks indicate that banks may be expected to do more than just file SARs, a responsibility that itself can be expensive and time-consuming.
That should send a chill up your spine.
In a recent piece, Simon Black imagined a future scenario in which some unsuspecting American citizen goes to the bank to withdraw a large amount of cash…
Imagine going to the bank to withdraw some cash.
Having some cash on hand is always a prudent strategy, and especially today when more and more bank deposits are creeping into negative territory, meaning that you have to pay the banks for the privilege that they gamble with your money.
You tell the teller that you’d like to withdraw $5,000 from your account. She hesitates nervously and wants to know why.
You try to politely let her know that that’s none of the bank’s business as it’s your money.
The teller disappears for a few minutes, leaving you waiting.
When she returns she tells you that you can collect your money in a few days as they don’t have it on hand at the moment.
Slightly irritated because of the inconvenience, you head home.
But as you pull into your driveway later there’s an unexpected surprise waiting for you: two police officers would like to have a word with you about your intended withdrawal earlier…
Perhaps you don’t think that anything like that could ever happen to you.
Well, consider what the feds are doing to one widow in Iowa…
A widow’s bank account was seized by the IRS and she now faces criminal charges for depositing her legal inheritance money in lumps instead of all together.
Janet Malone, 68, had $18,775 seized from her — money that was legally earned and was legally bestowed to her by her late husband, Ronald Malone. The problem, according to the government, was the fact that she deposited it in several lumps instead of all at once.
According to the Associated Press, Mrs. Malone deposited the cash in increments between $5,800 and $9,000. The widow’s private financial affairs evidently set off red flags under the watchful gaze of the federal government.
Remember, she was not guilty of committing any crime other than depositing cash in lumps instead of all at once.
If this is how ruthless the feds will be with an elderly widow, how would they treat you under similar circumstances?
So why are they doing this?
The truth is that they want to discourage the public from using cash. Our government, just like governments all over the planet, is not being shy about the fact that it does not like cash. If they can make people afraid to use cash, that suits their purposes very well.
And with each passing year the restrictions on the use of cash globally will just get tighter and tighter and the role that cash plays in our lives will just become smaller and smaller.
In the end, a transition to an almost entirely cashless society will seem almost natural. Cash is being killed off one slow step at a time, and at this point hardly anyone is objecting.
When it comes to taking a chainsaw to the future of America, nobody seems more eager than Barack Obama. Despite the fact that the U.S. national debt is on pace to approximately double during his eight years in the White House, he has just proposed a budget that would take government spending to crazy new heights. When Barack Obama took the oath of office, the U.S. national debt was 10.6 trillion dollars. Today, it has surpassed the 18 trillion dollar mark. And even though we are being told that “deficits are going down”, the truth is that the U.S. national debt increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal 2014. But that isn’t good enough for Obama. He says that we need to come out of this period of “mindless austerity” and steal money from our children and our grandchildren even faster. In addition, Obama wants to raise taxes again. His budget calls for 2 trillion dollars in tax increases over the next decade. He always touts these tax increases as “tax hikes on the rich”, but somehow they almost always seem to end up hitting the middle class too. But whether or not Congress ever adopts Obama’s new budget is not really the issue. The reality of the matter is that the “tax and spend Democrats” and the “tax and spend Republicans” are both responsible for getting us into this mess. Future generations of Americans are already facing the largest mountain of debt in the history of the planet, and both parties want to make this mountain of debt even higher. The only disagreement is about how fast it should happen. It is a national disgrace, but most Americans have come to accept this as “normal”. If our children and our grandchildren get the opportunity, they will curse us for what we have done to them.
All debt destroys.
All debt enslaves.
And when you are talking about an 18 trillion dollar debt, you are talking about an amount of money that is almost unimaginable.
If our national debt was reduced to a stack of one dollar bills, it would circle our planet at the equator 45 times.
How could we have done such a thing?
Thomas Jefferson once said that “the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” He correctly understood that government debt is stealing. We are financially raping our children, our grandchildren and all future generations of Americans. It is an incredibly wicked thing to do.
But instead of men like Thomas Jefferson running our country, we have men like Barack Obama running it.
And to Barack Obama, running up a trillion dollars of debt a year is “mindless austerity”…
“I want to work with Congress to replace mindless austerity with smart investments that strengthen America,” Obama said in a speech at the Department of Homeland Security. “I’m not going to accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward. It would be bad for our security, and bad for our growth.”
Yes, if we steal money from future generations it will artificially inflate our current standard of living and make our economy look temporarily better than it should be.
But it is morally wrong to do this, and our current crop of politicians have no intentions of ever bringing the debt party to an end.
Even with the ridiculously optimistic economic assumptions that are used in Obama’s new budget, the federal budget is never projected to balance within the next decade. Instead, Obama’s budget projects that the national debt will rise from 18.1 trillion dollars right now to 26.2 trillion dollars in 2025.
Of course it would greatly help if the federal government actually spent our money wisely. But instead, the feds often waste our hard-earned tax dollars in some of the most bizarre ways imaginable. The following is just one example…
The U.S. federal government has prompted controversy after spending over $33,000 on a study to find out whether same-sex couples live closer to tobacco shops than heterosexuals.
The large sum was spent on a study by the National Institutes of Health entitled, ‘Relationship Between Tobacco Retailer Density and Sexual Minority Couples.’
Thanks to this kind of insane spending, our debt is completely and totally out of control.
While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the U.S. national debt has increased by $84,266 per full-time private sector worker. Anyone that believes that this kind of debt accumulation is sustainable is absolutely delusional.
The only reason why our house of cards has not completely collapsed already is because the rest of the world has been willing to lend us gigantic piles of money at artificially low interest rates.
In December, the average rate of interest on the government’s marketable debt was 2.013 percent. But in the past, interest rates have been much higher than that. For example, in January 2000 the average rate of interest on the government’s marketable debt was 6.620 percent. If we returned to that level today, we would be paying well over a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.
And the issue isn’t just the more than one trillion dollars in new debt that we are accumulating every 12 months.
As I have discussed previously, the U.S. government has more than seven trillion dollars of debt that must be “rolled over” each year. In other words, the federal government must issue more than seven trillion dollars of new debt just to pay off old debts that are coming due.
If something were to happen which would cause the rest of the planet to either be unwilling or unable to lend us trillions of dollars at ridiculously low interest rates all of a sudden, the game would be over.
We were handed the keys to the greatest and most prosperous economy in the history of the planet, and our greed has totally wrecked it.
We were wealthy beyond imagination, but that was never good enough for us. We always had to have more.
And now we are hurtling toward financial oblivion, and we have a man in the White House that wants us to go into debt even faster.
The number of Americans that renounced their citizenship was 221 percent higher in 2013 than it was in 2012. That is a staggering figure, and it is symptomatic of a larger trend. In recent years, a lot of really good people with very deep roots in this country have made the difficult decision to say goodbye to the United States permanently. A few actually go to the trouble to renounce their citizenship, and that is mostly done for tax purposes. But most willingly choose to leave America for other reasons. Some were very serious when they said they would leave the U.S. if Barack Obama got a second term, some (such as Jesse Ventura) are dismayed at how our freedoms and liberties are eroding and are alarmed at the rise of the Big Brother police state, some are absolutely disgusted by the social and moral decay that is eating away at the foundations of our society, and there are yet others that consider “the grass to be greener” on the other side of the planet. Personally, I have a number of friends that have made the very hard decision to relocate their families thousands of miles away because they see what is coming to America and they believe that there isn’t any hope of turning things around at this point. I also have a lot of friends that are determined to stay in the United States no matter what. When it comes to the future of America, almost everyone has a very strong opinion, and these are discussions that we need to start having.
Once upon a time, the United States was seen as “the land of opportunity” all over the globe and it seemed like everyone wanted to come here.
But now that is all changing. As we have abandoned the principles that this country was founded upon, our economy has gone steadily downhill.
As I wrote about the other day, the middle class in America is slowly dying. As millions of good paying jobs have been shipped out of the country, the competition for the remaining jobs has become quite intense. At this point, there is even tremendous competition for minimum wage jobs.
Compared to exactly six years ago, 1,154,000 fewer Americans have jobs. Meanwhile, our population has gotten significantly larger since then. There simply are not enough jobs for everyone, and we continue to fall even farther behind. In January, the economy only added 113,000 jobs and in December the economy only added 75,000 jobs. Both of those figures are well below what we need just to keep up with population growth.
Looking ahead, things look even more troubling.
The number of “planned job cuts” in January was 12 percent higher than 12 months earlier, and it was actually 47 percent higher than in December.
The competition for jobs has also resulted in an extended period of declining incomes in the United States.
As I mention frequently, median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row, and the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen for eight years in a row.
Those that read my articles regularly probably have those facts memorized by now.
In addition, a study that just came out has shown that the number of “low-wage breadwinners” in the United States is at an all-time high…
A staggering number of American households are relying on low-wage jobs as their leading or sole source of income.
Meet the low-wage breadwinner. There were about 21 million of them in the United States in 2011, according to a forthcoming study by University of Massachusetts Boston economists Randy Albelda and Michael Carr.
Unlike other studies which often focus just on low-wage workers, the researchers looked at those who also live in low-income households. This way, they were able to strip out the teenager making $8 an hour flipping burgers but still living comfortably with his parents. Or the mom who works a part-time job in retail to supplement her husband’s otherwise ample salary.
For tens of millions of average American families, there simply is not enough money left at the end of each month.
That is why many of them turn to debt to try to make up the difference. Consumer credit is increasing at an alarming pace once again, and when the next great economic shock arrives many of those families are going to be in for a tremendous amount of financial pain.
In this type of economic environment, it should not be a surprise that anger, frustration and desperation are rising to very dangerous levels.
It was desperation and a fear of losing everything that he had ever worked for that drove one 80-year-old man to become a methamphetamine courier.
It was intense anger and frustration that drove a 58-year-old military veteran to package up cat feces and send it to employers that had turned him down…
Rather than simply grumble to himself or complain to others, a St. Louis man aggrieved by a company’s failure to hire him took another approach.
Jevons Brown packaged up cat feces and sent it through the mail.
Brown, 58, was sentenced Friday to two years of probation after pleading guilty in August to a misdemeanor charge of mailing injurious articles.
The plea says Brown, a veteran, became frustrated with his lack of employment opportunities and lashed out at employees of companies that failed to hire him.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
In the years ahead, we are going to see much, much worse.
And if you do lose everything, don’t expect anyone to care very much. There is already a frightening lack of compassion for those that are down on their luck in the United States today. For example, in Pensacola, Florida it is actually illegal for homeless people to use blankets or cardboard boxes to shield themselves from the cold…
So there I was with my wife and three kids, all of us huddled under blankets with the fireplace roaring, watching the temperature continue to drop from a comfortable 65 degrees down to 45. But outside it was 17 degrees and raining and sleeting, and if you were homeless, you had to consider that if you used a blanket to shield yourself from the elements, that you might be hauled off to jail for a violation of a local ordinance prohibiting using blankets, cardboard, or newspaper to cover yourself.
Once you lose everything, society just wants you to go away.
And this lack of compassion is going to get a whole lot worse during the very hard times that are coming.
So it is easy to understand why many Americans would want to get out of this country while they still can.
However, the truth is that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side.
For instance, you may be dreaming of moving to a tropical paradise where you can enjoy the sand and the sun every single day.
In the past, many Americans considered Puerto Rico a good place to relocate to. After all, it is a United States territory and if you only speak English you can still get around pretty well.
But you wouldn’t want to move down to Puerto Rico these days. Right now it is in the middle of a full-blown economic collapse…
Puerto Rico’s slow-motion economic crisis skidded to a new low last week when both Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s downgraded its debt to junk status, brushing aside a series of austerity measures taken by the new governor, including increasing taxes and rebalancing pensions. But that is only the latest in a sharp decline leading to widespread fears about Puerto Rico’s future. In the past eight years, Puerto Rico’s ticker tape of woes has stretched unabated: $70 billion in debt, a 15.4 percent unemployment rate, a soaring cost of living, pervasive crime, crumbling schools and a worrisome exodus of professionals and middle-class Puerto Ricans who have moved to places like Florida and Texas.
In fact, Puerto Rico is a preview of the kind of societal chaos that we could be seeing inside the United States in just a few years…
Schools sit shuttered either because of disrepair or because of a dwindling number of students. In this typically convivial capital, communities have erected gates and bars to help thwart carjackers and home invaders. Illegal drugs, including high-level narcotrafficking, are one of the few growth industries.
Well, what about South America?
In recent years, South America has been an extremely popular destination for those wishing to leave the United States.
Unfortunately, many areas of South America are experiencing full-blown economic collapse right now as well. As I wrote about recently, deteriorating economic conditions have resulted in widespread crime, looting, violence, blackouts, shortages of basic supplies, and runs on the banks in Argentina and Venezuela. The following is an excerpt from a recent interview with Fernando Aguirre who actually lives down in Argentina…
Chris Martenson: Okay. Bring us up to date. What is happening in Argentina right now with respect to its currency, the peso?
Fernando Aguirre: Well, actually pretty recently, January 22, the peso lost 15% of its value. It has devalued quite a bit. It ended up losing 20% of its value that week, and it has been pretty crazy since then. Inflation has been rampant in some sectors, going up to 100% in food, grocery stores 20%, 30% in some cases. So it has been pretty complicated. Lots of stores don’t want to be selling stuff until they get updated prices. Suppliers holding on, waiting to see how things go, which is something that we are familiar with because that happened back in 2001 when everything went down as we know it did.
Chris Martenson: So 100%, 20% inflation; are those yearly numbers?
Fernando Aguirre: Those are our numbers in a matter of days. In just one day, for example, cement in Balcarce, one of the towns in Southern Argentina, went up 100% overnight, doubling in price. Grocery stores in Córdoba, even in Buenos Aires, people are talking about increase of prices of 20, 30% just these days. I actually have family in Argentina that are telling me that they go to a hardware store and they aren’t even able to buy stuff from there because stores want to hold on and see how prices unfold in the following days.
Well, what about Europe?
Isn’t Europe a lot more stable?
Unfortunately, that is not necessarily true. In recent years we have seen rioting, civil unrest and Depression-like conditions in Ukraine, Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal.
And now you can add Bosnia to that list…
More than 150 people were wounded in Bosnia on Friday in the worst civil unrest in the country since the 1992-95 war as anger over the dire state of the economy and political inertia boiled over.
Angry protesters set fire to part of the presidential palace in Sarajevo in protests over unemployment and corruption, as well as government buildings in the capital Sarajevo, Tuzla and Zenica.
Just because you move out of the United States does not necessarily mean that you will avoid what is coming.
We are heading for a global economic collapse, and the pain is going to be felt to the farthest corners of the planet.
But of course there are many that will end up leaving the United States and will ultimately thrive.
So what do you think?
Is now a time for people to consider leaving the United States permanently?
Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…
America is being suffocated to death by red tape. You are about to read about an 11-year-old girl in Illinois that had her cupcake business brutally shut down by government bureaucrats. Her name is Chloe Stirling and her crime was doing something that we used to applaud young people in America for doing. Instead of sitting on her sofa and watching television all day, she actually started her own business. And it turned out there her little business started thriving. In fact, it started doing so well that a local newspaper took notice of it. Well, that is when the control freaks swooped in and took her business away and banned her from selling any more cupcakes. The really sad thing is that people are being paid to do this with our tax dollars. All over America, little entrepreneurs are having their lemonade stands shut down and are being banned from selling Girl Scout cookies, and our tax dollars are paying the people that are doing it. As I wrote about earlier this month, the level of economic freedom in the United States is at an all-time low, and it gets worse with each passing year. The country that so many of us love is dying, and it is being replaced with something that I like to call “the USSA”.
In the Union of Soviet Socialist Americans, you have to have a government “license” or “permit” to do just about anything. If the government does not give you permission, you can get into a whole lot of trouble.
Little 11-year-old Chloe Stirling must have thought that this was still the nation that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson once founded, because she dared to actually start a business and sell cupcakes to the public. Little did she know that she would soon make national news…
An 11-year-old girl from Illinois got a dose of regulation American-style this week when local government officials shut down her cupcake business.
Chloe Stirling, from Troy, got the front-page treatment from her local newspaper, which featured how well her business, Hey, Cupcake, was doing. By all accounts, it was a successful little enterprise. Chloe was getting $10 for a dozen cupcakes and $2 for each specialty cupcake. She even donated her cupcakes when a boy in her school fighting cancer held a fundraiser.
So why did they shut her down?
Well, it turns out that she didn’t have a “permit” to sell cupcakes and her kitchen was not “licensed”.
Like I said, you have to have permission from the government to do just about anything these days.
Another example of this phenomenon that is absolutely infuriating took place out in Fauquier County, Virginia. When a mother held a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls and posted the photos on Facebook, she never imagined that she would soon be hit with $15,000 in fines…
Martha Boneta owns a small farm in Fauquier County, Virginia, where she recently hosted a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls. They wore hats, picked veggies, and made goat’s milk soap. The county says she should have obtain a license before hosting such an event and hit her with a $5,000 fine.
Boneta also got slammed with two more fines for $5,000 each, one for advertising a pumpkin carving and another for violations in the small shop on her property. Boneta sells produce from her farm, as well as eggs, yarn, birdhouses, and local crafts. She sought and received a license for the shop in 2011, but the county now says she can’t sell handiwork or produce from her neighbors under that license.
Stuff like this just makes me want to scream sometimes.
What is happening to this country?
A few years ago, my wife used to take old pieces of furniture, sand them down, repaint them and sell them to others. It was something that she really enjoyed doing and she made some extra money along the way.
But if you try doing that in some areas of the country today, the EPA could potentially hit you with a fine of $30,000 for a single incident in which you do not follow the proper procedures. The following is an excerpt from a discussion that some furniture painters were having on Facebook. It is a little technical, but it is worth reading. In this excerpt the identity of the business has been removed to protect the business from overzealous regulators…
As a painter in PA, I am required by law to test everything that I disturb and I must charge the customer $60 for every test I perform which adds up. What the law states in my area is that if I disturb more than 6 square inches on anything made prior to Jan 1 1979 I must test it. Disturbing means, sanding, scraping, or even using a sponge/scuff pad (like you use on your pots) if I disturb more than 6 inches, I must take photographs, document in 4 different logs, I have local, county, state, and federal log books. If I find lead then I must suit up. Originally, the law stated that if there were no children around then you didn’t have to do that however some lame brained legislator decided that if a child enters the premises for more than one hour a day, we must assume they will be in contact with the lead and therefore will contract lead poisoning. Then the legislators decided that if you were over the age of 60 then it didn’t matter, you didn’t have to test who cares if you get poisoned. Lo and behold OSHA stepped in and joined forces with the EPA, they decided that all were at risk including your pets and the leaves on your trees can hold the lead dust and …..well, that’s a whole other issue.
What is happening now is that so many painters decided they weren’t going to follow the lead law, that OSHA and EPA send out secret shoppers. A lot of us don’t even put our logo’s on our vehicles because that invites these shoppers to investigate. If you come to the **** ********, you won’t see signage on the building, you have to get to the actual door of the workroom to know we are there. We no longer have logo’s on our vehicles either as the fines are too stiff. There isn’t one of us that can afford a find of $30,000.00 A DAY, not a year, A DAY.
The government bureaucrats are running wild and the rest of us are just sitting back and letting it happen.
Things have gotten so bad in this country that the federal government even requires small-time magicians to submit “disaster plans” for the rabbits that they use in their acts. The following is an excerpt from one of my previous articles…
Central planning in this country is getting completely and totally out of control. These days, you can hardly do anything without running into a suffocating web of red tape. For example, a small-time magician from Missouri that does magic shows for kids was absolutely horrified when he learned that the Obama administration is requiring him to submit a 32 page “disaster plan” for the rabbit that he uses in his shows. Yes, this is actually true. His name is Marty Hahne, and he thought that it was bad enough when the U.S. Department of Agriculture busted him for not having a “license” for his rabbit. He went out and acquired the proper “license” for his rabbit, but he never dreamed that eventually he would also have to submit a 32 page “disaster plan” for the same rabbit.
You can read the rest of that article right here.
Are you starting to get the picture?
These control freaks want to completely dominate every aspect of our lives. The “nanny state” is entirely out of control and it is up to “we the people” to do something about it.
Barack Obama revealed the kind of mentality that is behind this “nanny state” when he recently made the following statement…
“I would not let my son play pro football”
And without a doubt, the control freaks that run things will try to ban football (or at least “tone it down”) the moment that they think that they can get away with it.
America was supposed to be a place where liberty and freedom were maximized and the interference of the federal government in our lives was supposed to be minimized.
Instead, what we have now is just the opposite.
No wonder Americans consider the government to be their biggest problem.
Is 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…
Did you know that the big banks have a way to legally steal your house from you even if you don’t owe a single penny on your mortgage? Big banks and hedge funds are buying billions of dollars worth of tax liens from local governments all over the nation, and they are ruthlessly foreclosing on homeowners when they can’t pay the absolutely ridiculous penalties and legal fees that are tacked on to the original tax bill. As you will see below, one 76-year-old man lost his $197,000 home that he fully owned over a $134 tax bill. A 95-year-old woman lost her $300,000 home over a $44.79 tax bill. This is a very, very dirty way to make money, and the predatory financial institutions that are involved in this business definitely do not want to talk about it.
Of course much of the blame should also be shouldered by the local governments that are coldly selling these tax liens to these ruthless predators. If local governments want to collect their tax bills, they should do it themselves. They should not be auctioning off their tax liens to cold-hearted financial institutions that are very eager to commit a legal version of highway robbery.
A few days ago, the Washington Post reported on the tragic story of a 76-year-old former Marine named Bennie Coleman. Coleman had originally purchased his home with cash, but that didn’t stop tax lien predators from stealing his home over an unpaid $134 property tax bill…
On the day Bennie Coleman lost his house, the day armed U.S. marshals came to his door and ordered him off the property, he slumped in a folding chair across the street and watched the vestiges of his 76 years hauled to the curb.
Movers carted out his easy chair, his clothes, his television. Next came the things that were closest to his heart: his Marine Corps medals and photographs of his dead wife, Martha. The duplex in Northeast Washington that Coleman bought with cash two decades earlier was emptied and shuttered. By sundown, he had nowhere to go.
All because he didn’t pay a $134 property tax bill.
So why couldn’t he pay such a small bill?
Well, as the Post explained, these big banks and hedge funds keep tacking on interest, penalties and legal fees until the tax bills are many times the size that they originally were. When the distressed homeowners can’t come up with thousands of dollars to pay off the debts, the big banks and the hedge funds move in for the kill…
For decades, the District placed liens on properties when homeowners failed to pay their bills, then sold those liens at public auctions to mom-and-pop investors who drew a profit by charging owners interest on top of the tax debt until the money was repaid.
But under the watch of local leaders, the program has morphed into a predatory system of debt collection for well-financed, out-of-town companies that turned $500 delinquencies into $5,000 debts — then foreclosed on homes when families couldn’t pay, a Washington Post investigation found.
In particular, hedge funds have discovered that this is a great way to make huge piles of money. The following is a short excerpt from a CNN article that was published back in May…
With buyers identified only by numbers or unrelated names, the fragmented, unregulated industry is opaque. Even the market’s size is debated — $15 billion a year, according to Howard Liggett, the chief executive of Distressed Real Estate Consulting Services, or $5 billion a year, according to the National Tax Lien Association, a trade group. While returns are a closely kept secret, investors typically make between 2.5% and 10% a year, or in the low teens for larger buys.
“The hedge funds are chasing yield in this business” says Albert Friedman, a principal at Alterna Capital, an alternative investment firm in Boca Raton that buys tax liens.
Insiders estimate hedge funds now control 40% of the tax-lien market, from under 5% five years ago, with regional banks, obscure partnerships sporting names like God’s ATM LLC, and mom-and-pop investors making up the rest.
And a number of “too big to fail” banks are involved in this business as well.
In a previous article, I described exactly how this works…
1) The big Wall Street banks set up or invest in shell companies that will disguise who they really are.
2) These shell companies run around and buy up all of the tax liens that they can get their hands on.
3) Predatory levels of interest (in some states as high as 18 percent), fees and penalties rapidly pile up on these unpaid tax liens. The affected homeowners quickly end up owing much, much more than what the original tax bills were for.
4) If the collecting firm has to hire a lawyer, then that gets charged to the homeowner as well. The bloated legal fees for some of these lawyers can end up being the biggest expense of all.
5) If the tax liens do not get paid, the collecting firms move in to foreclose as quickly as legally possible.
According to the Huffington Post, Wall Street banks such as Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase have been gobbling up several hundred thousand tax liens from local governments. It appears that “distressed housing markets” are being particularly targeted.
Many of these tax liens are sold in online auctions, so it is unclear if many local government officials even realize who the big money behind many of these shell companies is.
These big financial institutions may consider this to be “good business”, but the truth is that they are absolutely shattering lives in the process. This is particularly true when it comes to older people that do not fully understand what is happening to them. Just consider the following examples from a recent Washington Post article…
A 48-year-old math teacher paid his taxes in 2007, but the tax office took his $1,400 payment and applied it to the wrong house, crediting an entirely different taxpayer.
A 58-year-old bank employee almost lost her house in 2010 because the tax office mistakenly sent bills and notices to a wooded lot across from a strip shopping center in Virginia — 12 times.
A 69-year-old hat designer was given the wrong payoff amount and ended up in court to save her property, owned by her family since 1943.
Those homeowners found out about the mistakes in time to fight. Ninety-five-year-old Daisy Dolsey, living in a nursing home and struggling with Alzheimer’s, wasn’t so lucky: She lost her $300,000 house over a $44.79 tax debt even after she paid her taxes.
Doesn’t that just sicken you?
And then the big banks and the hedge funds have the gall to wonder why people dislike them so much.
In this day and age, large financial institutions have become more cold-hearted than ever before.
Always make sure that your property taxes are fully paid, and always keep a paper record of all financial transactions involving your home.
If you do slip up and make a mistake at some point, there is a very good chance that a ruthless financial institution will try to swoop in and steal your home right out from under your nose.