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

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Will The Wealthy Race To Dump Stocks And Other Financial Assets Before The Fiscal Cliff Kicks In?

The election results made it abundantly clear that taxes are going to be going up, and right now a lot of wealthy people all over America are trying to figure out how to best position themselves for the hit that is coming.  There are a whole host of tax cuts that are set to expire on December 31st, and many analysts are now speculating that we could see a race to dump stocks and other financial assets before 2013 in order to get better tax treatment on those sales.  Of course it is still possible that Congress may reach a bargain which would avoid these tax increases, but with each passing day that appears to be increasingly unlikely – especially regarding the tax increases on the wealthy.  Whatever you may believe about this politically, the truth is that we should all be able to agree that these looming tax increases provide an incentive for wealthy people to sell off financial assets now rather than later.  After all, there are very few people out there that would actually prefer to pay higher taxes on purpose.  If the race to dump financial assets becomes a landslide, could this push stocks down significantly late in the year?  Already there are all sorts of technical signs that indicate that stocks are ready for a “correction” at the very least.  For example, the S&P 500 has already closed below its 200 day moving average for several days in a row.  Could the “sell off” that has already begun become a race for the exits?

A lot of Americans have heard about the looming “fiscal cliff”, but most don’t really understand the specifics.

For investors, there are several key changes which will happen unless Congress does something by January 1st.

First of all, the tax rate on capital gains will go from 15 percent to 20 percent.  For those with high incomes, the rate will be even higher than that thanks to a tax increase that our politicians managed to sneak into Obamacare.  So, some wealthy individuals will see their capitals gains taxed at nearly 24 percent in 2013 unless something is done.

For dividends, the outlook is even more frightening.  The tax rate on dividends will increase from 15 percent right now to over 43 percent for the highest income earners.

We have already seen these tax increases play into business decisions that have been made in recent months.  For example, it is being reported that George Lucas potentially saved hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes by selling Star Wars to Disney this year rather than next year.

Anyone out there that wants to take advantage of the current tax rates on capital gains and dividend income better do so now, because these tax rates look like they are going to go away and they probably will not be back for a very, very long time.

According to CNBC, this makes the next couple of months an ideal time to dump stocks and other financial assets…

For many of the wealthy, 2012 is becoming a good year to sell.

They’re worried about the “fiscal cliff,” which is when tax cuts expire and spending cuts are set to go into effect at the end of the year.

Fearing an increase in capital gains and dividend taxes, many of the rich are unloading stocks, businesses and homes before the end of the year.

And the truth is that stocks simply did not have much higher that they could possibly go anyway.  Anyone that is trying to “get out while the getting is good” should take heed of what Marc Faber recently told CNBC

“The market is going down because corporate profits will begin to disappoint, the global economy will hardly grow next year or even contract, and that is the reason why stocks, from the highs of September of 1,470 on the S&P, will drop at least 20 percent, in my view.”

In fact, Faber is absolutely convinced that a full-blown stock market crash is coming no matter what happens with the fiscal cliff…

“I think the whole global financial system will have to be reset and it won’t be reset by central bankers but by imploding markets — either the currency [markets, debt market or stock markets,” he said. “It will happen — it will happen one day and then we’ll be lucky if we still have 50 percent of the asset values that we have today.”

Politics and economics have always been deeply intertwined.  The results of the most recent election are going to have some very deep consequences.  Already we have seen a large number of businesses either announce layoffs or that hours for their workers will be cut back.  You can find a bunch of tweets from small business owners talking about how they won’t be hiring anyone or that they will be forced to reduce hours right here.  You can find a bunch of tweets from average citizens all over the country talking about how their hours are already being cut back right here.

With each passing day, our country is getting poorer, it is getting even deeper in debt and our economy is becoming even more unstable.  We are on a path that will only lead to total economic disaster, but the American people just voted for more of the same.

So now we will get to see how this all plays out.

Is there anyone out there that is still optimistic about what is coming next for the U.S. economy?

95 Percent Of The Jobs Lost During The Recession Were Middle Class Jobs

Who is the biggest loser in the ongoing decline of the U.S. economy?  Is it the wealthy?  No, the stock market has been soaring lately and their incomes are actually going up.  Is it the poor?  Well, the poor are definitely hurting very badly, but when you don’t have much to begin with you don’t have much to lose.  Unfortunately, it is the middle class that has lost the most during this economic downturn.  According to Bloomberg, 95 percent of the jobs lost during the recession were middle class jobs.  That is an absolutely astounding figure.  Yes, some executives lost their jobs during the last recession as did some minimum-wage workers.  But overwhelmingly the jobs that were lost were middle income jobs.  Sadly, the limited number of jobs that have been added since the end of the last recession have mostly been low income jobs.  A higher percentage of Americans are working low income jobs than ever before, and the cost of living continues to rise at a very brisk pace.  This is causing an erosion of the middle class unlike anything we have ever seen in American history.

When I was growing up I was taught that the fact that we had the largest middle class in the history of the world was evidence that our economic system was working incredibly well.

So what does the fact that the middle class is shrinking at a very rapid pace at this point say about how well our economy is working?

Middle Class Incomes Are Going Down

During the last recession, millions of Americans lost their jobs and the percentage of working age Americans that have jobs has not bounced back in the years since the recession ended.

But most middle class Americans still have jobs.  The big problem for many middle class families is the fact that their incomes are not going up.  In fact, after you account for inflation, middle class incomes are actually way down during the Obama years as a recent Bloomberg article explained….

As a candidate in 2008, Obama blamed the reversals largely on the policies of Bush and other Republicans. He cited census figures showing that median income for working-age households — those headed by someone younger than 65 — had dropped more than $2,000 after inflation during the first seven years of Bush’s time in office.

Yet real median household income in March was down $4,300 since Obama took office in January 2009 and down $2,900 since the June 2009 start of the economic recovery, according to an analysis of census data by Sentier Research, an economic- consulting firm in Annapolis, Maryland.

So is this the “hope and change” that Obama was talking about?

But let’s not just blame Obama and Bush.  The truth is that the trend toward lower paying jobs has been going on for a very long time.

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

So where will it end?

Will 50 percent or 60 percent of all Americans soon be working low income jobs?

At this point, approximately one out of every four jobs in America pays $10 an hour or less.

Could your family survive on $10 an hour?

The Rising Cost Of Living

As middle class incomes go down, the cost of almost everything that middle class families buy continues to go up.

The Federal Reserve claims that it has kept inflation “low” for decades, but that is a giant lie.

When you take a look at the long-term picture, it is amazing how much prices have changed.

Back in 1950, the average price of a new car was $1,510.

Today, the average price of a new car is $30,748.

In 1967, yearly tuition at Yale was $1,950.

Today it is $38,300.

And inflation continues to take a great toll on the paychecks of middle class families.

For example, electricity bills in the U.S. have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

Also, the price of gas has risen by more than 100 percent since Barack Obama entered the White House and the average U.S. household spent a staggering $4,155 on gasoline during 2011.

The Destruction Of Middle Class Wealth

What is the number one financial asset for most middle class families?

Most middle class families don’t have a lot of stocks, bonds or other financial assets.

Instead, normally the family home is the number one financial asset for most middle class families, and in recent years the value of that asset has been absolutely decimated.

When you take inflation into account, housing prices have fallen all the way back to 1998 levels.  The following is from a recent Smart Money article….

The latest S&P / Case-Shiller numbers, reported last week, show that prices in 20 major markets declined 3.5% over the year through February. They’re now back to 2002 levels. If we subtract for inflation, they’re back to 1998 levels.

Overall, home prices in the U.S. have declined for six months in a row and are now down a total of 35 percent from the peak of the housing bubble.

Unfortunately, things don’t look like they are going to turn around any time soon.  Yale economics professor Robert Shiller recently said the following about U.S. home prices….

“I worry that we might not see a really major turnaround in our lifetimes”

But falling home prices are not the only problem we are witnessing.  We are also seeing millions of middle class families lose their homes.

According to the U.S. Census, homeownership in America is now at the lowest level it has been in 15 years.

According to Gallup, the current level of homeownership in the United States is the lowest that Gallup has ever measured.

Owning your own home is an indication that you are part of the middle class, and so the fact that the number of Americans that own a home is falling rapidly is not a good sign for the health of the middle class at all.

The Future Is Not Bright

Those that are graduating from college right now are supposed to be the future of the middle class in America.

But for most of those college graduates, the future is not so bright.  Last year, a staggering 53 percent of all U.S. college graduates under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed.

Millions of young college graduates have been forced to take jobs that do not even require a college degree.  Just check out the following stats from a recent CNBC article….

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

Aren’t those numbers crazy?

The truth is that a college education is no longer a ticket to the middle class.

What Happens To Americans That Fall Out Of The Middle Class?

As the middle class shrinks, the ranks of the “low income” and “the poor” are absolutely swelling.

Today, approximately 48 percent of all Americans are either considered to be “low income” or are living in poverty.

That is almost half the country.

Each year, millions more fall out of the middle class.  In 2010, 2.6 million more Americans fell into poverty.  That was the biggest increase that we have seen since the U.S. government began keeping statistics on this back in 1959.

As the middle class shrinks, the number of Americans dependent on the government for survival rises.  Right now, government dependence is at an all-time high and things are only going to get worse from here.

In November 2008 (when Barack Obama won the election), 30.8 million Americans were on food stamps.  Today, more than 46 million Americans are on food stamps.

Will we eventually see 50 million or 60 million Americans on food stamps?

The U.S. economy desperately needs more middle class jobs.

Unfortunately, the Republicans failed to generate them under George W. Bush and the Democrats failed to generate them under Barack Obama.

Instead, both parties continue to promote the politics of division and they both continue to push for more of the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place.

Nothing is being done to solve our problems and so the middle class in America is going to be even smaller by this time next year.

If you still have a spot in the middle class, hold on to it as tightly as you can.  It is not as secure as you might think.

Class Warfare Is Being Used To Divide America – And It Is Working

At a time when America desperately needs to come together, we are becoming more divided than ever.  The mainstream media and most of our politicians love to pit us against one another in dozens of different ways, and right now class warfare has become one of their favorite tools for getting us to hate one another.  If you are struggling in this economy, you are being told that “the wealthy” are the cause of your problems.  If you have money, you are being told that the poor hate you and want to tax you into oblivion.  Class warfare has already become a dominant theme in the 2012 race for the White House, and there will certainly be endless speeches given along these lines by politicians from both major political parties all the way up to election day.  Class warfare will be used by both sides as a way to divide America and get votes.  And the frightening thing is that it is clearly working.  There is more hatred between the poor and the wealthy in America today than at any other time that I can remember.  But hating people because of how much money they have or don’t have is not going to solve anything.  Instead, it is just going to cause more problems.

The other day, Yale economics professor Robert Shiller told CNBC that the globe is already in a state of “late Great Depression“.  The United States is heading into unprecedented economic and financial problems and we desperately need to pull together as a country and solve these problems.

But instead, our leaders are tapping into the politics of division in a desperate attempt to get elected in the fall.

Rather than focus on real issues and real solutions, our politicians attempt to make “the wealthy” or “welfare recipients” the focus of our debates.

Well, you know what?

Most people that are rich and most people that are poor are not purposely trying to abuse the system.  Most of them are hard working people that are trying to do the best that they can in a world that is increasingly going crazy.

These days, the Occupy Wall Street crowd loves to talk about how evil the “1 percent” is.  But most of the “1 percent” are people that have worked really hard and that have been fortunate enough to get some really good breaks in life.

Yes, there are some among the “1 percent” that do some really bad things.  The too big to fail banks and the big money managers on Wall Street should be held accountable for the crimes that they have committed.

But most wealthy Americans are not trying to oppress the poor.  Most of them are just trying to do the best that they can for themselves and their families.

Neither are most poor people trying to abuse the system either.

Yes, without a doubt there are some that do not want to work and that want to live on government benefits indefinitely.

But that is a minority.

Most Americans that are receiving government benefits today would rather be working good jobs that would enable them to provide for their families.

Most Americans understand that government handouts can never provide dignity and hope for a better future.

But if you don’t demonize the poor and you point out the decline of the middle class, many Republicans will call you a “liberal” or a “socialist”.

And if you don’t demonize the rich and you don’t blame them for all of our economic problems, many Democrats will call you a “pig” or a “fascist”.

Unfortunately, playing the blame game is not going to get us anywhere.

The number of Americans living in poverty increased dramatically under George W. Bush and it also increased dramatically under Barack Obama.

Our country is drowning in debt, millions of our jobs are being shipped overseas, the middle class is shrinking at an astounding pace, and the Federal Reserve continues to destroy our financial system.

Getting angry at the wealthy or the poor is not going to fix those problems.

But it will distract us from the reality that both major political parties have been doing a horrible job.

Sadly, Americans seem to really enjoy blaming one another these days.  Just check out some of the slogans that have been seen on various signs at Occupy Wall Street protests….

“They Only Call It Class Warfare When We Fight Back”

“Eat The Rich – Feed The Poor”

“The Rich Are Wrecking The Planet”

So will destroying the lives of the rich solve our problems?

Of course not.

The truth is that we should want millions more Americans to be prosperous.  We should be cheering for one another instead of tearing one another down.

But that is heresy to many on the left.

On the right, it is heresy even to mention that our tax system is fundamentally flawed and that it has thousands of loopholes that are being abused by the very wealthy.

In a previous article, I detailed how many of the largest and most profitable corporations in America get away with paying absolutely nothing in taxes.

There is something very wrong with that.

Our income tax system should be abolished altogether, but if we do have to pay income taxes, then it is fundamentally unfair for some people and businesses to be able to pay little or nothing while the rest of us get absolutely obliterated by taxes.

But if you try to say that to many on the right, they will look at you in horror.

The other day, there was a New York Times article that detailed the extreme measures that Apple takes to avoid paying taxes.  It turns out that Apple sets up shell offices all over the globe in order to evade taxation….

As it has in Nevada, Apple has created subsidiaries in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands — some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office — that help cut the taxes it pays around the world.

That same article talked about how Apple has become a model which hundreds of other companies have followed.  To giant corporations such as Apple, tax evasion has become an art form….

Apple, for instance, was among the first tech companies to designate overseas salespeople in high-tax countries in a manner that allowed them to sell on behalf of low-tax subsidiaries on other continents, sidestepping income taxes, according to former executives. Apple was a pioneer of an accounting technique known as the “Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich,” which reduces taxes by routing profits through Irish subsidiaries and the Netherlands and then to the Caribbean. Today, that tactic is used by hundreds of other corporations — some of which directly imitated Apple’s methods, say accountants at those companies.

So what is the solution to all of this?

Raising income taxes won’t work too well because the tax lawyers are always several steps ahead of our politicians.

The truth is that when taxes get raised it is always the middle class that gets absolutely clobbered and the wealthy always find more ways to reduce their exposure.

Just take a look at Mitt Romney.  He made more than 42 million dollars in 2010 and yet Romney had an effective tax rate of only 14 percent.

If I could find a way to have an effective tax rate of only 14 percent I would be jumping up and down for joy, and so would millions of other Americans.

Our tax system is deeply, deeply broken and needs to be thrown into the trash can.

Abandoning the current tax system would not solve all of our problems, but it would be a start.

Unfortunately, neither political party is willing to even consider this.

Instead, the Democrats want to raise taxes a little bit and the Republicans want to lower taxes a little bit.

But neither alternative will do much of anything to solve any of the real problems we are facing.

Our economy is dying and it is not producing nearly enough jobs for all of us.  When Barack Obama took office, the number of “long-term unemployed workers” in America was 2.6 million.  Today, it is 5.3 million.

At this point, an astounding 53 percent of all college graduates under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed.

So where is all of the “change” that Obama promised?

Things just keep getting worse.

Since Obama has been in the White House, 14 million more Americans have gone on food stamps, and more than 25 percent of all American children are enrolled in the program today.

How will class warfare help those people?

Will blaming the wealthy make things better for them?

They are already receiving government handouts.

Will increasing those handouts a little bit more fundamentally change their lives for the better?

Of course not.

What those people need are good jobs.

But instead, both the Democrats and the Republicans continue to pursue the same job killing policies that have been destroying American jobs for decades.

Without good jobs, the number of Americans dependent on the government is going to continue to grow.

In a previous article, I detailed the explosive growth of social welfare benefits that we have seen under both Republicans and Democrats….

Back in 1960, social welfare benefits made up approximately 10 percent of all salaries and wages.  In the year 2000, social welfare benefits made up approximately 21 percent of all salaries and wages.  Today, social welfare benefits make up approximately 35 percent of all salaries and wages.

The goal should not be to rape the rich and give out even more social welfare benefits.

Instead, the goal should be to develop an economy that creates good jobs.

We need have an economy that empowers individuals and small businesses.

Instead, we have an economy dominated by big government and big corporations.

We have an economy that funnels the vast majority of the economic rewards to a tiny elite while most of the rest of us struggle.

Just consider the following statistics….

*Back in the 1970s, the top 1 percent of all income earners in the United States brought in about 8 percent of all income.  Today, they bring in about 21 percent of all income.

*The following is how income gains in the U.S. were distributed during 2010….

-37 percent of all income gains went to the top 0.01 percent of all income earners

-56 percent of all income gains went to the rest of the top 1 percent

-7 percent of all income gains went to the bottom 99 percent

*In America today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

*According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.

So what is the solution to that problem?

Is it to attack the rich and take away all their money and give more government handouts to the poor?

Of course not.

Rather, we need to change the rules of the game so that individuals and small businesses are empowered to succeed.

We need to decentralize economic power and dramatically reduce the undue influence that big government and giant corporations have over our economic system.

We need to create an environment where almost anyone that has a good idea and that is willing to work hard can succeed.

But instead of focusing on real solutions like shutting down the Federal Reserve, converting to debt-free currency, eliminating the income tax, shutting down the IRS, massively reducing the size of government and getting rid of thousands upon thousands of unneeded regulations, the mainstream media and our politicians are going to continue to try to get Americans to blame one another for our problems.

The efforts to divide America are working, and hatred is growing to unprecedented levels in this country.

Eventually this will lead to mass rioting in our major cities and that will make our problems far worse.

Hatred and division are not going to bring us a better future.

They are only going to destroy us from within.

We don’t need hate.

What we need is more love and more solutions.

Unfortunately, our leaders are leading us down a very dark path, and we are heading for a future that is going to be a complete mess.

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