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Warren Buffett: Derivatives Are Still Weapons Of Mass Destruction And ‘Are Likely To Cause Big Trouble’

Nuclear War - Public DomainAfter all these years, the most famous investor in the world still believes that derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction.  And you know what?  He is exactly right.  The next great global financial collapse that so many are warning about is nearly upon us, and when it arrives derivatives are going to play a starring role.  When many people hear the word “derivatives”, they tend to tune out because it is a word that sounds very complicated.  And without a doubt, derivatives can be enormously complex.  But what I try to do is to take complex subjects and break them down into simple terms.  At their core, derivatives represent nothing more than a legalized form of gambling.  A derivative is essentially a bet that something either will or will not happen in the future.  Ultimately, someone will win money and someone will lose money.  There are hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of these bets floating around out there, and one of these days this gigantic time bomb is going to go off and absolutely cripple the entire global financial system.

Back in 2002, legendary investor Warren Buffett shared the following thoughts about derivatives with shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway

The derivatives genie is now well out of the bottle, and these instruments will almost certainly multiply in variety and number until some event makes their toxicity clear. Central banks and governments have so
far found no effective way to control, or even monitor, the risks posed by these contracts. In my view, derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal.

Those words turned out to be quite prophetic.  Derivatives have definitely multiplied in variety and number since that time, and it has become abundantly clear how toxic they are.  Derivatives played a substantial role in the financial meltdown of 2008, but we still haven’t learned our lessons.  Today, the derivatives bubble is even larger than it was just before the last financial crisis, and it could absolutely devastate the global financial system at any time.

During one recent interview, Buffett was asked if he is still convinced that derivatives are “weapons of mass destruction”.  He told the interviewer that he believes that they are, and that “at some point they are likely to cause big trouble”

Thirteen years after describing derivatives as “weapons of mass destruction” Warren Buffett has reaffirmed his view that they pose a threat to the global economy and financial markets.

In an interview with Chanticleer this week, Buffett said that “at some point they are likely to cause big trouble“.

“Derivatives, lend themselves to huge amounts of speculation,” he said.

Most of the time, the big banks that do most of the trading in these derivatives do very well.  They use extremely sophisticated computer algorithms that help them come out on the winning end of these bets most of the time.

But when there is some sort of unforeseen event that suddenly causes a massive shift in the marketplace, that can cause tremendous problems.  This is something that Buffett discussed during his recent interview

“The problem arises when there is a discontinuity in the market for some reason or another.

“When the markets closed like it was for a few days after 9/11 or in World War I the market was closed for four or five months – anything that disrupts the continuity of the market when you have trillions of dollars of nominal amounts outstanding and no ability to settle up and who knows what happens when the market reopens,” he said.

So if the markets behave fairly calmly and predictably, the derivatives bubble probably will not burst.

But no balancing act of this nature ever lasts forever.  Just remember what happened in 2008.  Lehman Brothers collapsed and then the financial system virtually froze up.  According to Forbes, at that time almost everyone was afraid to deal with the big banks because nobody was quite sure how much exposure they had to these risky derivatives…

Fast forward to the financial meltdown of 2008 and what do we see? America again was celebrating. The economy was booming. Everyone seemed to be getting wealthier, even though the warning signs were everywhere: too much borrowing, foolish investments, greedy banks, regulators asleep at the wheel, politicians eager to promote home-ownership for those who couldn’t afford it, and distinguished analysts openly predicting this could only end badly. And then, when Lehman Bros fell, the financial system froze and world economy almost collapsed. Why?

The root cause wasn’t just the reckless lending and the excessive risk taking. The problem at the core was a lack of transparency. After Lehman’s collapse, no one could understand any particular bank’s risks from derivative trading and so no bank wanted to lend to or trade with any other bank. Because all the big banks’ had been involved to an unknown degree in risky derivative trading, no one could tell whether any particular financial institution might suddenly implode.

After the crisis, we were promised that something would be done about the “too big to fail” problem.

But instead, the problem of “too big to fail” is now larger than ever.

Since the last financial crisis, the four largest banks in the country have gotten approximately 40 percent larger.  Today, the five largest banks account for approximately 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks account for approximately 67 percent of all assets in our financial system.  Without those banks, we would not have much of an economy left at all.

Meanwhile, smaller banks have been going out of business or have been swallowed up by the big banks at a staggering rate.  Incredibly, there are 1,400 fewer small banks in operation today than there were when the last financial crisis erupted.

So we cannot afford for these “too big to fail” banks to actually fail.  Even the failure of a single one would cause a national financial nightmare.  The “too big to fail” banks that I am talking about are JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.  When you total up the exposure to derivatives that all of them currently have, it comes to a grand total of more than 278 trillion dollars.  But when you total up all of the assets of all six banks combined, it only comes to a grand total of about 9.8 trillion dollars.  In other words, the “too big to fail” banks have exposure to derivatives that is more than 28 times the size of their total assets.

I have shared the following numbers with my readers before, but it is absolutely crucial that we all understand how exceedingly vulnerable our financial system really is.  These numbers come directly from the OCC’s most recent quarterly report (see Table 2), and they reveal a recklessness that is almost beyond words…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $2,573,126,000,000 (about 2.6 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $63,600,246,000,000 (more than 63 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,842,530,000,000 (more than 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $59,951,603,000,000 (more than 59 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $856,301,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $57,312,558,000,000 (more than 57 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $2,106,796,000,000 (a little bit more than 2.1 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $54,224,084,000,000 (more than 54 trillion dollars)

Morgan Stanley

Total Assets: $801,382,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $38,546,879,000,000 (more than 38 trillion dollars)

Wells Fargo

Total Assets: $1,687,155,000,000 (about 1.7 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $5,302,422,000,000 (more than 5 trillion dollars)

Since the United States was first established, the U.S. government has run up a total debt of a bit more than 18 trillion dollars.  It is the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the planet, and it has grown so large that it is literally impossible for us to pay it off at this point.

But the top five banks in the list above each have exposure to derivatives that is more than twice the size of the national debt, and several of them have exposure to derivatives that is more than three times the size of the national debt.

That is why I keep saying that there will not be enough money in the entire world to bail everyone out when this derivatives bubble finally implodes.

Warren Buffett is entirely correct about derivatives – they truly are weapons of mass destruction that could destroy the entire global financial system at any time.

So as we move into the second half of this year and beyond, you will want to watch for terms like “derivatives crisis” or “derivatives crash” in news reports.  When derivatives start making front page news, that will be a really, really bad sign.

Our financial system has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the planet.  For the moment, the roulette wheels are still spinning and everyone is happy.  But sooner or later, a “black swan event” will happen that nobody expected, and then all hell will break loose.

Hopium: How Far Can Irrational Optimism Take The U.S. Economy?

Thought Bubble - Public DomainIf enough people truly believe that things will get better, will that actually cause them to get better?  There is certainly something to be said for being positive and thinking that anything is possible.  And as Americans, optimism seems to come naturally for us.  However, no amount of positive thinking is ever going to turn the sun into a block of wood or turn the moon into a block of cheese.  Any good counselor will tell you that one of the first steps toward recovery is to stop being delusional and to come to grips with how bad things really are.  When we deny reality and engage in irrational wishful thinking, we are engaging in something called “hopium”.  This is a difficult term to define, but the favorite definition of hopium that I have come across so far goes like this: “The irrational belief that, despite all evidence to the contrary, things will turn out for the best.”  In hundreds of articles, I have documented how the U.S. economy is mired in a long-term decline which is about to get a lot worse.  But most Americans see things very differently.  In fact, according to a brand new CNN/ORC poll, 52 percent of Americans describe the U.S. economy as “very” or “somewhat good”, and more than two-thirds of all Americans believe that the U.S. economy will be in “good shape” a year from right now.  But if you asked most of those people why they are so optimistic, they would probably mumble something about “Obama” or about how “we’re Americans and we always bounce back” or some other such gibberish.  Well, it’s wonderful that so many people are feeling good and looking forward to the future, but are those beliefs rational?

We witnessed a perfect example of this “hopium” on Wednesday.  Sales at McDonald’s restaurants have been in decline for quite a while, and the numbers for the first quarter of 2015 were just abysmal

The ubiquitous burger-and-fries chain said US sales, the largest share of global income, fell 2.6 percent from a year ago for comparable outlets.

Sales in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East region dropped 8.3 percent, helping bring overall global sales down 2.3 percent, “reflecting negative guest traffic in all segments,” the company said.

Total revenue sank 11 percent to $5.96 billion in the quarter to March 31, and net income plunged 32.6 percent to $812 million, or 84 cents a share (-31 percent).

So you would think that the stock price would have tanked on Wednesday, right?

Wrong.

Thanks to news that a “turnaround plan” would be announced on May 4th, McDonald’s stock actually skyrocketed

McDonald’s closed up 3.13 percent after spiking more than 4.5 percent in early trade as investors cheered a turnaround plan expected on May 4. However, the fast food chain’s earnings missed on both the top and bottom lines.

This is pure hopium.  Why don’t McDonald’s executives just tell us what the plan is now?  But instead, the mystery of a “secret turnaround plan” gives people just enough hope to keep the stock from tumbling – at least for the moment.

And of course there are all sorts of other stocks that are being massively inflated by hopium right now.

Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate, I was taught that a price to earnings ratio of more than 20 was really, really high.

But these days that is the norm on Wall Street, and at the moment there are quite a few stocks that actually have price to earnings ratios that are greater than 100

There are 10 stocks in the Standard & Poor’s 500, including industrial giant General Electric, video-streamer Netflix and oil and gas explorer Cabot Oil & Gas that are trading for 100 times their diluted earnings the past 12 months excluding extraordinary items, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ.

And if you can believe it, General Electric has a PE on its training earnings of more than 200

Take General Electric, the industrial giant that’s swiftly selling off banking assets so it can return to its manufacturing roots. GE sports a PE on its trailing earnings of 227, says S&P Capital IQ.

This is completely and totally irrational.  General Electric is a giant mess and is being very badly mismanaged.  But investors continue to pay a massive premium for GE stock because they hope that things will turn around eventually.

Look, hope will get you a lot of things in life, but it won’t put money in your pockets or dinner on the table.

Our politicians and the mainstream media continue to sell us hard on the idea that things are getting better in America, but meanwhile our economic infrastructure continues to decay.  Just check out what is happening in the steel industry

United States Steel Corporation issued layoff notices to 1,404 workers in the latest sign of struggle for the American steel industry. The missives went out in recent days to workers producing pipe and tube products that are used in the oil and gas sector. Job cuts could come as early as June for 17 to 579 employees at a plant in Lone Star, Texas, 166 at a factory in Houston, 255 at a mill in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and 404 managers across the company’s tubular operations nationwide.

Since last June, the company has informed 7,800 employees of potential job cuts, a tally from Pittsburgh Business Times indicated. U.S. Steel spokeswoman Sarah Cassella said the ongoing layoffs are the result of “challenging market conditions and global influences in the market including a high level of imports, reduced prices for oil and natural gas and reduced steel prices.”

A little over a month ago, I published an article entitled “10 Charts Which Show We Are Much Worse Off Than Just Before The Last Economic Crisis” in which I demonstrated that we are in far worse economic shape than we were just prior to the last recession, and now another great economic crisis is at our door.

Unfortunately, most Americans have no idea what is going on out there.  Most of them get their news from the giant propaganda matrix that very tightly controls the flow of ideas and information in this country.  This is something that I explain on my new DVD.  Six colossal corporations control over 90 percent of the news, information and entertainment that Americans consume, and that gives them an awesome amount of power.

And right now that propaganda matrix is assuring the American people that everything is going to be just fine.

Well, they better be right.  Because if not, they are going to have millions of people extremely angry with them when things really start falling to pieces.

The EMP Threat: All It Would Take Is A Couple Of Explosions To Send America Back To The 1800s

EMP ThreatOur entire way of life can be ended in a single day.  And it wouldn’t even take a nuclear war to do it.  All it would take for a rogue nation or terror organization to bring us to our knees is the explosion of a couple well-placed nuclear devices high up in our atmosphere.  The resulting electromagnetic pulses would fry electronics from coast to coast.  Of course this could also be accomplished without any attack.  Scientists tell us that massive solar storms have hit our planet before, and that it is inevitable that there will be more in the future.  As you will read about below, the most recent example of this was “the Carrington Event” in 1859.  If a similar burst from the sun hit us today, experts tell us that life in America could suddenly resemble life in the 1800s, and the economic damage caused could potentially be in the trillions of dollars.  This is one of the greatest potential threats that we are facing as a nation, and yet Barack Obama has essentially done nothing to get us prepared.

The technology necessary to conduct such an electromagnetic pulse attack against the United States has become much more accessible in recent years.  According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, even rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran either already have or will soon have the capability to hurt us in this way…

Rogue nations such as North Korea (and possibly Iran) will soon match Russia and China and have the primary ingredients for an EMP attack: simple ballistic missiles such as Scuds that could be launched from a freighter near our shores; space-launch vehicles able to loft low-earth-orbit satellites; and simple low-yield nuclear weapons that can generate gamma rays and fireballs.

If a successful, large scale EMP attack ever did take place, it would be a catastrophe beyond anything that the United States has ever seen before.  The EMP Commission, which was established by Congress, says that it is likely that most of us would end up dead

What would a successful EMP attack look like? The EMP Commission, in 2008, estimated that within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown.

In 2009 the congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, whose co-chairmen were former Secretaries of Defense William Perry and James Schlesinger, concurred with the findings of the EMP Commission and urged immediate action to protect the electric grid. Studies by the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the National Intelligence Council reached similar conclusions.

If you are a terrorist, a dictator or a fanatic that is looking for a “killshot” for the United States, those kinds of numbers would certainly get your attention.

And it was recently reported by WND that the Iranian military has already been playing around with such a scenario…

Peter Vincent Pry, who is executive director of a congressional advisory group called the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, raised the alarm as the agreement is about to be finalized.

He said U.S. military officials have confirmed such an Iranian plan.

“Iranian military documents describe such a scenario – including a recently translated Iranian military textbook that endorses nuclear EMP attack against the United States,” Pry wrote in a recent column in Israel’s main online media network, Aruz Sheva.

“Iran with a small number of nuclear missiles can by EMP attack threaten the existence of modernity and be the death knell of Western principles of international law, humanism and freedom,” he said.

Very chilling stuff.

And of course there are many, many others out there that would love to see the U.S. taken down other than just the Iranians.

Meanwhile, our power grid is far more vulnerable than most Americans would dare to imagine.

In previous articles, I discussed a recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report which stated the following…

“Destroy nine interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer.”

Are you starting to get the picture?

Our entire way of life depends upon electricity.  If you take away that electricity, our society is transformed literally overnight.

A successful EMP would be an utter nightmare for this nation.  Just consider what U.S. Representative Scott Perry had to say about a potential attack last year

The consequences of such an attack could be catastrophic; all electronics, power systems, and information systems could be shut down,” Rep. Scott Perry said in prepared remarks during an EMP hearing in May held by the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security. “This could then cascade into interdependent infrastructures such as water, gas, and telecommunications. While we understand this is an extreme case, we must always be prepared in case a rogue state decides to utilize this technology.”

In essence, suddenly nothing would work and just about everything that we take for granted would suddenly be gone.

In a previous article, I spelled out some of the implications of such an event…

-There would be no heat for your home.
-Water would no longer be pumped into most homes.
-Your computer would not work.
-There would be no Internet.
-Your phones would not work.
-There would be no television.
-There would be no radio.
-ATM machines would be shut down.
-There would be no banking.
-Your debit cards and credit cards would not work.
-Without electricity, most gas stations would not be functioning.
-Most people would be unable to do their jobs without electricity and employment would collapse.
-Commerce would be brought to a standstill.
-Hospitals would not be able to function normally.
-You would quickly start running out of medicine.
-All refrigeration would shut down and frozen foods in our homes and supermarkets would start to go bad.

And as I mentioned above, all of this can happen even without an attack.

A direct hit from a major solar storm can cause the exact same thing.

In fact, NASA says that there is a 12 percent chance that such a storm will hit us during the next ten years…

NASA is warning that there’s a 12 percent chance an extreme solar storm will hit Earth in the next decade, sending out massive shock waves that would knock out grids across the world.

The economic impact of this doomsday scenario could exceed $2 trillion — or 20 times the cost of Hurricane Katrina, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

In recent years, we have been really lucky.

There was a close call in 2012 and another one in 2013.

The following is an excerpt from an upcoming book that I have co-authored with Barbara Fix that will soon be published entitled “Get Prepared Now”…

Most people have absolutely no idea that the Earth barely missed being fried by a massive EMP burst from the sun in 2012 and in 2013. And earlier in 2014 there was another huge solar storm which would have caused tremendous damage if it had been directed at our planet. If any of those storms would have directly hit us, the result would have been catastrophic. Electrical transformers would have burst into flames, power grids would have gone down and much of our technology would have been fried. In essence, life as we know it would have ceased to exist – at least for a time. These kinds of solar storms have hit the Earth many times before, and experts tell us that it is inevitable that it will happen again. The most famous one happened in 1859, and was known as the Carrington Event. But other than the telegraph, humanity had very little dependence on technology at the time. If another Carrington Event happened today, it would be a complete and utter nightmare. A study by Lloyd’s of London has concluded that it would have taken a $2,600,000,000,000 chunk out of the global economy, and it would take up to a decade to repair the damage. Unfortunately, scientists insist that it is going to happen at some point. The only question is when.

So keep an eye on the sun.

The giant ball of fire that we revolve around has started to behave very erratically, and it has the power to end our way of life at any time.

In fact, scientists tell us that we are about to get hit with a “glancing blow” on April 7th…

A filament of magnetism stretching halfway across the sun erupted during the late hours of April 4th (22:00-23:00 UT). The eruption split the sun’s atmosphere, hurling a CME into space and creating a “canyon of fire,” shown in a movie recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory: The glowing walls of the canyon trace the original channel where the filament was suspended by magnetic forces above the sun’s surface. From end to end, the structure stretches more than 300,000 km–a real Grand Canyon.

Fragments of the exploding filament formed the core of a CME that raced away from the sun at approximately 900 km/s (2 million mph): image. Most of the CME will miss Earth, but not all. The cloud is expected to deliver a a glancing blow to our planet’s magnetic field could on April 7th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.

The event of April 7th is not going to cause us major problems.  But someday there will be a solar storm that will.

Personally, I cannot even imagine what life would be like without electricity.

Because we have become so deeply dependent on technology, most of us would have absolutely no idea how to live without it.

An electromagnetic pulse attack would be one of the fastest ways to cripple America and end the dominance of the United States in world affairs.  And in this day and age, there are hundreds of millions of people around the planet that would love to see that happen.

So to not take steps to protect our power grid from such an attack is very foolish.  But that is precisely what Barack Obama (and presidents before him) have chosen to do.  We have technology which would mitigate the damage from an electromagnetic pulse, but rather than spend the money Obama has decided to just hope that it will never happen.

Up to this point, we have been fortunate.

But someday, our luck may run out.

12 Charts That Show The Permanent Damage That Has Been Done To The U.S. Economy

12 - Public DomainMost people that discuss the “economic collapse” focus on what is coming in the future.  And without a doubt, we are on the verge of some incredibly hard times.  But what often gets neglected is the immense permanent damage that has been done to the U.S. economy by the long-term economic collapse that we are already experiencing.  In this article I am going to share with you 12 economic charts that show that we are in much, much worse shape than we were five or ten years ago.  The long-term problems that are eating away at the foundations of our economy like cancer have not been fixed.  In fact, many of them continue to get even worse year after year.  But because unprecedented levels of government debt and reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve have bought us a very short window of relative stability, most Americans don’t seem too concerned about our long-term problems.  They seem to have faith that our “leaders” will be able to find a way to muddle through whatever challenges are ahead.  Hopefully this article will be a wake up call.  The last major wave of the economic collapse did a colossal amount of damage to our economic foundations, and now the next major wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching.

#1 Employment

The mainstream media is constantly telling us about the “employment recovery” that is happening in the United States, but the truth is that it is just an illusion.  As the chart below demonstrates, just prior to the last recession about 63 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  During the last wave of the economic collapse, that number dropped to below 59 percent and stayed there for a very long time.  In the past few months we have finally seen the employment-population ratio tick back up to 59 percent, but we are still far, far below where we used to be.  To call the tiny little bump at the end of this chart a “recovery” is really an insult to our intelligence…

Employment Population Ratio 2014

#2 The Labor Force Participation Rate

The percentage of Americans that are either employed or currently looking for a job started to fall during the last recession and it has not stopped falling since then.  The labor force participation rate has now fallen to a 36 year low, and this is a sign of a very, very sick economy…

Labor Force Participation Rate 2014

#3 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Years

Some blame the decline in the labor force participation rate on the aging of our population.  But it isn’t just elderly people that are dropping out of the labor force.  In fact, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years (25 to 54) continues to rise and is now at the highest level that has ever been recorded…

Inactivity Rate Men 2014

#4 Manufacturing Employees

Once upon a time in America, anyone that was reliable and willing to work hard could easily find a manufacturing job somewhere.  But we have stood by and allowed millions upon millions of good paying manufacturing jobs to be shipped out of the country, and now many of our formerly great manufacturing cities have been transformed into ghost towns.  Over the past few years, there has been a slight “recovery”, but we are still well below where we were at just previous to the last recession…

Manufacturing Employees 2014

#5 Our Current Account Balance

As a nation, we buy far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us.  In other words, we perpetually consume far more wealth than we produce.  This is a recipe for national economic suicide.  Our current account balance soared to obscene levels just prior to the last recession, and now we have almost gotten back to those levels…

Current Account Balance 2014

#6 Existing Home Sales

Our economy has never fully recovered from the housing crash of 2007-2008.  As you can see from the chart below, the number of existing home sales is still far below the level that we hit back in 2006.  At this point we are just getting back to the level we were at in 2000, but our population today is far larger than it was back then…

Existing Home Sales 2014

#7 New Home Sales

Things are even more dramatic when you look at new home sales.  This is an industry that have been absolutely emasculated.  The number of new home sales in the United States is just a little more than half of what it was back in 2000, and it isn’t even worth comparing to what we experienced during the peak of 2006.

New Home Sales 2014

#8 The Monetary Base

In a desperate attempt to get the economy going again, the Federal Reserve has been wildly printing money.  It has been so reckless that it is hard to put it into words.  When I look at this chart, the phrase “Weimar Republic” comes to mind…

Monetary Base 2014

#9 Food Inflation

Thankfully, much of the money that the Federal Reserve has been injecting into the system has not made it into the real economy.  But enough of it has gotten into the system to force food prices significantly higher.  For example, my wife went to the store today and paid just a shade under 10 bucks for just four pieces of chicken.  And as you can see from the chart below, food prices have been steadily going up in America for a very long time…

Food Inflation 2014

#10 The Velocity Of Money

One of the reasons why we have not seen even more inflation is because the velocity of money is extraordinarily low.  In general, when an economy is healthy money tends to flow through the system rapidly.  People are buying and selling and money changes hands frequently.  But when an economy is sick, money tends to stagnate.  And that is exactly what is happening in the United States right now.  In fact, at this point the velocity of the M2 money stock has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded…

Velocity Of Money 2014

#11 The National Debt

As our economic fundamentals have deteriorated, our politicians have attempted to prop up our standard of living by borrowing from the future.  The U.S. national debt is on pace to approximately double during the Obama years, and it increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal year 2014 alone.  Despite assurances that “the deficit is under control”, the federal government borrows about a trillion dollars a year to fund new spending in addition to borrowing about 7 trillion dollars to pay off old debt that is coming due.  What we are doing to future generations of Americans is absolutely criminal, and it is just a matter of time before this Ponzi scheme totally collapses…

National Debt 2014

#12 Total Debt

Of course it is not just the federal government that is gorging on debt.  When you add up all forms of debt in our society (government, business, consumer, etc.) it comes to a grand total of more than 57 trillion dollars.  This total has more than doubled since the year 2000…

Total Debt 2014

If you know anyone that believes that we are in good economic shape, just show them these charts.

The numbers do not lie.  Our economy is sick and it is getting sicker by the day.

And of course the next major financial crisis could strike at any time.  U.S. stocks just experienced their worst week in three years, and if cases of Ebola start popping up around the country the fear that would cause could collapse our economy all by itself.

The debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying today is not real.  We are living on the fumes of our past, and every single day our long-term problems get even worse.

Anyone with half a brain should be able to see what is coming.

Sadly, most Americans will continue to deny the truth until it is far too late.

The U.S. National Debt Has Grown By More Than A Trillion Dollars In The Last 12 Months

America Is BrokeThe idea that the Obama administration has the budget deficit under control is a complete and total lie.  According to the U.S. Treasury, the federal government has officially run a deficit of 589 billion dollars for the first 11 months of fiscal year 2014.  But this number is just for public consumption and it relies on accounting tricks which massively understate how much debt is actually being accumulated.  If you want to know what the real budget deficit is, all you have to do is go to a U.S. Treasury website which calculates the U.S. national debt to the penny.  On September 30th, 2013 the U.S. national debt was sitting at $16,738,183,526,697.32.  As I write this, the U.S. national debt is sitting at $17,742,108,970,073.37.  That means that the U.S. national debt has actually grown by more than a trillion dollars in less than 12 months.  We continue to wildly run up debt as if there is no tomorrow, and by doing so we are destroying the future of this nation.

The chart that I have posted below shows the exponential growth of the U.S. national debt over the past several decades.  Anyone that would characterize this as “under control” is lying to you…

National Debt 2014

This is the greatest government debt bubble in the history of the world, but very few people seem to have any desire to do anything about this anymore.  We are literally gorging on debt, and most Americans seem to think that it is just fine and dandy.

Perhaps that it is because we have never really experienced any serious consequences for going into so much debt yet.

But when it comes to running up debt, a day of reckoning always comes eventually.

Just ask Greece.

And the absolutely insane spending policies of this administration and this Congress are hastening the day when our day of reckoning will arrive.

Consider the following facts…

-The U.S. national debt has increased by more than 7 trillion dollars since Barack Obama has been in the White House.  By the time Obama’s second term is over, we will have accumulated about as much new debt under his leadership than we did under all of the other U.S. presidents in all of U.S. history combined.

-The U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first established in 1913.

-If the U.S. national debt was reduced to a stack of one dollar bills it would circle the earth at the equator 45 times.

-Right now, the United States already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain.

-In August, the average rate of interest on the government’s marketable debt was 2.028 percent.  In January 2000, the average rate of interest on the government’s marketable debt was 6.620 percent.  If we got back to that level today, we would be paying well over a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.

-At this point the U.S. government has accumulated more than 200 trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities that will need to be paid in future years.  In other words, we have made more than 200 trillion dollars worth of promises that we do not have money for yet.

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.”

What we are doing to future generations is absolutely unconscionable.  We are stealing trillions upon trillions of dollars from our children and our grandchildren, and we are willingly consigning them to a lifetime of debt slavery.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating.  If future generations get the chance, they will look back and curse us for what we have done to them.

And shame on anyone that would dare to suggest that we should continue to run up more debt that future generations will be expected to repay.

But government debt is far from the only massive debt bubble that we are dealing with as a country.

40 years ago, the total amount of debt in our nation (all government debt plus all business debt plus all individual debt) was sitting at a grand total of about 2.3 trillion dollars.

Today, that total has grown to 59.4 trillion dollars.

As the chart posted below shows, our total debt bubble is now more than 25 times larger than it was just 40 years ago…

Total Credit Market Debt 2014

If you were to take all forms of debt in our country and divide it up equally to each person, the average family of four would owe approximately $735,000.

This is not anywhere close to being sustainable, but most Americans don’t seem to care.  They just continue to recklessly run up even more debt.

However, there are signs that we are starting to hit a wall with all of this debt.

For example, an astounding 35 percent of all Americans have debts that are so overdue that they have been referred to collection agencies.

Our nation has become an ocean of red ink from sea to shining sea, and the only way to keep the bubble from bursting is for the total amount of debt to continue to grow much faster than the overall economy is growing.

Obviously this cannot happen indefinitely, and when this house of cards comes crashing down it is going to be absolutely horrific.  For much more on all of this please see my previous article entitled “The United States Of Debt: Total Debt In America Hits A New Record High Of Nearly 60 Trillion Dollars“.

The big question is how long our “bubble economy” can keep going before it finally collapses.

It has gotten to the point where even some of the biggest banks in the world are admitting that what we have been doing is completely and totally unsustainable.  Just consider the following excerpt from a recent article by Joshua Krause

*****

Recently, strategists for Deutsche Bank released a startling study in regards to government debt. They decided to investigate whether or not the bond market is currently in a bubble. What they found was, unlike previous eras, the past 20 years has seen no lag between economic booms and busts:

It has long been our view that over the last couple of decades the global economy has rolled from bubble to bubble with excesses never fully being allowed to unravel. Instead aggressive policy responses have encouraged them to roll into new bubbles.

This has arguably kept the modern financial system as we know it a going concern. Clearly there have always been bubbles formed through history but has there been a period like the last 20 years where the bursting of one bubble has consistently led directly to the formation of the next?

Essentially, our current system has been dying a very slow death. It’s running out of steam.

*****

Sadly, most Americans have no idea that we are living in a giant debt-fueled bubble that has a limited lifespan.

Most Americans just assume that since the politicians tell them that everything is going to be okay that they don’t need to be concerned about any of this.

But every single day our debts get even larger and our long-term financial problems get even worse.

Someday this bubble is going to burst and then all hell will break loose.

It is just a matter of time.

If The Economy Is Recovering, Why Is The Labor Force Participation Rate At A 36 Year Low?

Unemployment - Public DomainShould we be concerned that the percentage of Americans that are either working or looking for work is the lowest that it has been in 36 years?  In August, an all-time record high 92,269,000 Americans 16 years of age and older did not “participate in the labor force”.  And when you throw in the people that are considered to be “in the labor force” but are not currently employed, that pushes the total of working age Americans that do not have jobs to well over 100 million.  Yes, it may be hard to believe, but there are more than 100 million working age Americans that are not employed right now.  Needless to say, this is not a sign of a healthy economy, and it is a huge reason why dependence on the government has soared to absolutely unprecedented levels.  When people can’t take care of themselves, they need someone else to take care of them.  If the percentage of people in the labor force continues to decline like it has been, what is that going to mean for the future of our society?

The chart below shows the changes in the civilian labor force participation rate since 1980.  As you can see, the rate steadily rose between 1980 and 2000, but since then it has generally been declining.  In particular, this decline has greatly accelerated since the beginning of the last recession…

Labor Force Participation Rate

We have never seen an extended precipitous decline of this nature before.  But instead of admitting that we have a very serious problem on our hands, many mainstream economists are dismissing this decline as “structural in nature”.  For example, check out the following excerpt from a recent Reuters article

A paper published on Thursday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, suggested the decline was primarily due to an aging population and other structural factors, and concluded the labor force would continue to shrink.

But there is a major flaw in this analysis.  It turns out that older Americans are the only group for which employment numbers have actually been going up.  I really like how Zero Hedge made this point the other day…

Well that’s very odd, because it was only two months ago that the Census wrote the following [5]: “Many older workers managed to stay employed during the recession; in fact, the population in age groups 65 and over were the only ones not to see a decline in the employment share from 2005 to 2010 (Figure 3-25)… Remaining employed and delaying retirement was one way of lessening the impact of the stock market decline and subsequent loss in retirement savings.”

Figure 3-25
Yes, Baby Boomers are hitting retirement age.

But that does not explain why the labor force participation rate numbers for younger groups have been going down.

Each month, the U.S. economy has to add somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 jobs just to keep up with population growth.  Since job creation has been tepid at best in recent years, the only way that the government has been able to get the official unemployment rate to steadily “go down” has been to remove millions upon millions of Americans from the labor force.

According to the official government numbers, since 2007 768,000 jobs have been added to the economy, but a whopping 13 million Americans have been added to the numbers of those “not in the labor force”.

As a result, the official unemployment rate has magically been “declining”.

But the truth is that our employment crisis has not been solved at all.

And it isn’t just the number of jobs that we need to be concerned about.  We are also dealing with a multi-year decline in the quality of our jobs.  In fact, the Wall Street Journal just reported that 34 percent of all U.S. workers are “freelancers” now…

More evidence that this isn’t your parents’ labor market: Roughly one in three U.S. workers is now a freelancer.

Fifty-three million Americans, or 34% of the nation’s workforce, qualify as freelancers, according to a new report from the Freelancers Union, a nonprofit organization, and Elance-oDesk Inc., a company that provides platforms for freelancers to find work. These individuals include independent contractors, temps, and moonlighters, among others.

In other words, about a third of all workers in the country are “temps” at this point.

I don’t know about you, but to me that is an extremely alarming statistic.

If the economy really was recovering, this would not be happening.

And as millions upon millions of Americans are being forced out of the official labor force, an increasing number of people are turning to the underground economy.

For example, in some of our major cities we are witnessing a rise in the number of street vendors.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Los Angeles Times article entitled “More Angelenos are becoming street vendors amid weak economy“…

Sitting at her street vending booth with products arrayed neatly on a sequined purple tablecloth, Jackie Lloyd reflects nostalgically on the days when she had a steady salary and regular hours.

That was four years ago, before the 39-year-old was laid off from her job as an elementary school cafeteria worker and mounting bills forced her to venture into self-employment.

Now the Pico-Union resident hops from location to location, selling body oils, shea butter, soap and incense. She moves when nearby businesses complain or she feels unsafe.

Some days, her sales bring in $150. Others, they don’t break $20.

In order to have a strong middle class, we need middle class jobs.

If our labor force participation rate continues to fall and the quality of our jobs continues to decline, the middle class will continue to shrink.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “30 stats to show to anyone that does not believe the middle class is being destroyed“.

But our authorities never seem to want to admit what our real problems are.

Instead, they love to come up with alternative theories for our economic struggles.

One of the latest theories being put forward by the Federal Reserve is that the economy is not moving along like it should because ordinary Americans are “hoarding money”

One of the great mysteries of the post-financial crisis world is why the U.S. has lacked inflation despite all the money being pumped into the economy.

The St. Louis Federal Reserve thinks it has the answer: A paper the central bank branch published this week blames the low level of money movement in large part on consumers and their “willingness to hoard money.”

This seems completely absurd to me.

From what I can see, most families are just doing their best to survive from month to month these days.

I certainly don’t see a lot of people “hoarding money”.

What about you?

What do you think?

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

Who Needs The United States? Not Russia And China

Vladimir PutinRussia and China have just signed what is being called “the gas deal of the century”, and the two countries are discussing moving away from the U.S. dollar and using their own currencies to trade with one another.  This has huge implications for the future of the U.S. economy, but the mainstream media in the United States is being strangely quiet about all of this.  For example, I searched CNN’s website to see if I could find something about this gas deal between Russia and China and I did not find anything.  But I did find links to “top stories” entitled “Celebs who went faux red” and “Adorable kid tugs on Obama’s ear“.  Is it any wonder why the mainstream media is dying?  If a particular story does not fit their agenda, they will simply ignore it.  But the truth is that this new agreement between Russia and China is huge.  It could end up fundamentally changing the global financial system, and not in a way that would be beneficial for the United States.

Russia and China had been negotiating this natural gas deal for ten years, and now it is finally done.  Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas on the entire planet, and China is poised to become the world’s largest economy in just a few years.  This new $400 billion agreement means that these two superpowers could potentially enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship for the next 30 years

Russia reached a $400 billion deal to supply natural gas to China through a new pipeline over 30 years, a milestone in relations between the world’s largest energy producer and the biggest consumer.

President Vladimir Putin is turning to China to bolster Russia’s economy as relations sour with the U.S. and European Union because of the crisis in Ukraine. Today’s accord, signed after more than a decade of talks, will allow state-run gas producer OAO Gazprom (GAZP) to invest $55 billion developing giant gas fields in eastern Siberia and building the pipeline, Putin said.

It’s an “epochal event,” Putin said in Shanghai after the contract was signed. Both countries are satisfied with the price, he said.

Of course countries sell oil and natural gas to each other all the time.  But what makes this deal such a potential problem for the U.S. is the fact that Russia and China are working on cutting the U.S. dollar out of the entire equation.  Just check out the following excerpt from a recent article in a Russian news source

Russia and China are planning to increase the volume of direct payments in mutual trade in their national currencies, according to a joint statement on a new stage of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation signed during high-level talks in Shanghai on Tuesday.

“The sides intend to take new steps to increase the level and expansion of spheres of Russian-Chinese practical cooperation, in particular to establish close cooperation in the financial sphere, including an increase in direct payments in the Russian and Chinese national currencies in trade, investments and loan services,” the statement said.

In my recent article entitled “De-Dollarization: Russia Is On The Verge Of Dealing A Massive Blow To The Petrodollar“, I warned about what could happen if the petrodollar monopoly ends.  In the United States, our current standard of living is extremely dependent on the rest of the world continuing to use our currency to trade with one another.  If Russia starts selling natural gas to China without the U.S. dollar being involved, that would be a monumental blow to the petrodollar.  And if other nations started following the lead of Russia and China, that could result in an avalanche from which the petrodollar may never recover.

And it isn’t just the national governments of Russia and China that are discussing moving away from the U.S. dollar.  For example, the second largest bank in Russia just signed a deal with the Bank of China “to pay each other in domestic currencies”

VTB, Russia’s second biggest lender, has signed a deal with Bank of China, which includes an agreement to pay each other in domestic currencies.

“Under the agreement, the banks plan to develop their partnership in a number of areas, including cooperation on ruble and renminbi settlements, investment banking, inter-bank lending, trade finance and capital-markets transactions,” says the official VTB statement.

The deal underlines VTB Group’s growing interest in Asian markets and will help grow trade between Russia and China that are already close trading partners, said VTB Bank Management Board Vasily Titov.

You can almost feel the power of the U.S. dollar fading.

A few months ago, when I wrote about how China had announced that it no longer planned to stockpile more U.S. dollars, I speculated that it may be evidence that China planned to start making a big move away from the U.S. dollar.

Well, now China’s intentions have become even more clear.

The Chinese do not plan to allow the United States to indefinitely dominate the globe financially.  In the long run, the Chinese plan to be the ones calling the shots, and that means that the power of the U.S. dollar must decline.

These days, instead of piling up mountains of U.S. currency, China has started accumulating hard assets instead.  In the past, I have written about how China is rapidly stockpiling gold, and it turns out that the Chinese have also been very busy stockpiling oil as well

China is stockpiling oil for its strategic petroleum reserve at a record pace, intervening on a scale large enough to send a powerful pulse through the world crude market.

The move comes as tensions mount in the South China Sea and the West prepares possible oil sanctions against Russia over the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Analysts believe China is quietly building up buffers against a possible spike in oil prices or disruptions in supply.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its latest monthly report that China imported 6.81m barrels per day (bpd) in April, an all-time high.

Once upon a time, China was extremely dependent on the United States economically.  The same was true with most of the rest of the world.

But now economic power has shifted so dramatically that nations such as Russia and China are realizing that they don’t really need to be dependent on the United States any longer.

And with each passing year, the relationship between Russia and China is becoming stronger.  As Pepe Escobar recently observed, this emerging alliance is causing quite a bit of consternation in Washington…

And no wonder Washington is anxious. That alliance is already a done deal in a variety of ways: through the BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa); at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Asian counterweight to NATO; inside the G20; and via the 120-member-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Trade and commerce are just part of the future bargain. Synergies in the development of new military technologies beckon as well. After Russia’s Star Wars-style, ultra-sophisticated S-500 air defense anti-missile system comes online in 2018, Beijing is sure to want a version of it. Meanwhile, Russia is about to sell dozens of state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-35 jet fighters to the Chinese as Beijing and Moscow move to seal an aviation-industrial partnership.

Meanwhile, the relationship that the U.S. has with both nations is quickly going sour.  The crisis in Ukraine has caused relations with Russia to drop to the lowest point since the end of the Cold War, and now China is deeply offended by charges that Chinese military officers have been involved in cyberspying on the United States

China on Tuesday warned the United States was jeopardizing military ties by charging five Chinese officers with cyberspying and tried to turn the tables on Washington by calling it “the biggest attacker of China’s cyberspace.”

China announced it was suspending cooperation with the United States in a joint cybersecurity task force over Monday’s charges that officers stole trade secrets from major American companies. The Foreign Ministry demanded Washington withdraw the indictment.

The testy exchange marked an escalation in tensions over U.S. complaints that China’s military uses its cyber warfare skills to steal foreign trade secrets to help the country’s vast state-owned industrial sector.

The divide between the East and the West is growing.

But the Obama administration has not figured out that we need the East more than they need us.

Right now, the number one U.S. export is U.S. dollars.  Our massively inflated standard of living is very heavily dependent on the rest of the world using our currency to trade with one another and lending it to us at super low interest rates.

If the rest of the world quits playing our game, our debt-based financial system will quickly fall apart.

Unfortunately, nobody in the Obama administration seems to have much understanding of global economics, and they will probably continue to antagonize Russia and China.

In the end, the consequences for antagonizing them could end up being far greater than any of us ever imagined.

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