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New Law Would Make Taxpayers Potentially Liable For TRILLIONS In Derivatives Losses

Derivatives - Banksters - Public DomainIf the quadrillion dollar derivatives bubble implodes, who should be stuck with the bill?  Well, if the “too big to fail” banks have their way it will be you and I.  Right now, lobbyists for the big Wall Street banks are pushing really hard to include an extremely insidious provision in a bill that would keep the federal government funded past the upcoming December 11th deadline.  This provision would allow these big banks to trade derivatives through subsidiaries that are federally insured by the FDIC.  What this would mean is that the big banks would be able to continue their incredibly reckless derivatives trading without having to worry about the downside.  If they win on their bets, the big banks would keep all of the profits.  If they lose on their bets, the federal government would come in and bail them out using taxpayer money.  In other words, it would essentially be a “heads I win, tails you lose” proposition.

Just imagine the following scenario.  I go to Las Vegas and I place a million dollar bet on who will win the Super Bowl this year.  If I am correct, I keep all of the winnings.  If I lose, federal law requires you to bail me out and give me the million dollars that I just lost.

Does that sound fair?

Of course not!  In fact, it is utter insanity.  But through their influence in Congress, this is exactly what the big Wall Street banks are attempting to pull off.  And according to the Huffington Post, there is a very good chance that this provision will be in the final bill that will soon be voted on…

According to multiple Democratic sources, banks are pushing hard to include the controversial provision in funding legislation that would keep the government operating after Dec. 11. Top negotiators in the House are taking the derivatives provision seriously, and may include it in the final bill, the sources said.

Sadly, most Americans don’t understand how derivatives work and so there is very little public outrage.

But the truth is that people should be marching in the streets over this.  If this provision becomes law, the American people could potentially be on the hook for absolutely massive losses

The bank perks are not a traditional budget item. They would allow financial institutions to trade certain financial derivatives from subsidiaries that are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. — potentially putting taxpayers on the hook for losses caused by the risky contracts.

This is not the first time these banks have tried to pull off such a coup.  As Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg has detailed, bank lobbyists tried to do a similar thing last year…

Five years after the Wall Street coup of 2008, it appears the U.S. House of Representatives is as bought and paid for as ever. We heard about the Citigroup crafted legislation currently being pushed through Congress back in May when Mother Jones reported on it. Fortunately, they included the following image in their article:

Derivatives Bill From Liberty Blitzkrieg

Unsurprisingly, the main backer of the bill is notorious Wall Street lackey Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a former Goldman Sachs employee who has discovered lobbyist payoffs can be just as lucrative as a career in financial services. The last time Mr. Himes made an appearance on these pages was in March 2013 in my piece: Congress Moves to DEREGULATE Wall Street.

Fortunately, it was stopped in the Senate at that time.

But that is the thing with bank lobbyists.  They are like Terminators – they never, ever, ever give up.

And they now have more of a sense of urgency then ever, because we are moving into a period of time when the big banks may begin losing tremendous amounts of money on derivatives contracts.

For example, the rapidly plunging price of oil could potentially mean gigantic losses for the big banks.  Many large shale oil producers locked in their profits for 2015 and 2016 through derivatives contracts when the price of oil was above $100 a barrel.  As I write this, the price of oil is down to $65 a barrel, and many analysts expect it to go much lower.

So guess who is on the other end of many of those trades?

The big banks.

Their computer models never anticipated that the price of oil would fall by more than 40 dollars in less than six months.  A loss of 40, 50 or even 60 dollars per barrel would be catastrophic.

No wonder they want legislation that will protect them.

And commodity derivatives are just part of the story.  Over the past couple of decades, Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world.  At this point, the amounts of money that these “too big to fail” banks are potentially on the hook for are absolutely mind blowing.

As you read this, there are five Wall Street banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives.  The following numbers come from the OCC’s most recent quarterly report (see Table 2)

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $2,520,336,000,000 (about 2.5 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $68,326,075,000,000 (more than 68 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,909,715,000,000 (slightly more than 1.9 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $61,753,462,000,000 (more than 61 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $860,008,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $57,695,156,000,000 (more than 57 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $2,172,001,000,000 (a bit more than 2.1 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $55,472,434,000,000 (more than 55 trillion dollars)

Morgan Stanley

Total Assets: $826,568,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,134,518,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)

Those that follow my website regularly will note that the derivatives exposure for the top four banks has gone up significantly since I last wrote about this just a few months ago.

Do you want to be on the hook for all of that?

Keep in mind that the U.S. national debt is only about 18 trillion dollars at this point.

So why in the world would we want to guarantee losses that could potentially be far greater than our entire national debt?

Only a complete and utter fool would financially guarantee these incredibly reckless bets.

Please contact your representatives in Congress and tell them that you do not want to be on the hook for the derivatives losses of the big Wall Street banks.

When this derivatives bubble finally implodes and these big banks go down (and they inevitably will), we do not want them to take down the rest of us with them.

Plummeting Oil Prices Could Destroy The Banks That Are Holding Trillions In Commodity Derivatives

Panic Button - Public DomainCould rapidly falling oil prices trigger a nightmare scenario for the commodity derivatives market?  The big Wall Street banks did not expect plunging home prices to cause a mortgage-backed securities implosion back in 2008, and their models did not anticipate a decline in the price of oil by more than 40 dollars in less than six months this time either.  If the price of oil stays at this level or goes down even more, someone out there is going to have to absorb some absolutely massive losses.  In some cases, the losses will be absorbed by oil producers, but many of the big players in the industry have already locked in high prices for their oil next year through derivatives contracts.  The companies enter into these derivatives contracts for a couple of reasons.  Number one, many lenders do not want to give them any money unless they can show that they have locked in a price for their oil that is higher than the cost of production.  Secondly, derivatives contracts protect the profits of oil producers from dramatic swings in the marketplace.  These dramatic swings rarely happen, but when they do they can be absolutely crippling.  So the oil companies that have locked in high prices for their oil in 2015 and 2016 are feeling pretty good right about now.  But who is on the other end of those contracts?  In many cases, it is the big Wall Street banks, and if the price of oil does not rebound substantially they could be facing absolutely colossal losses.

It has been estimated that the six largest “too big to fail” banks control $3.9 trillion in commodity derivatives contracts.  And a very large chunk of that amount is made up of oil derivatives.

By the middle of next year, we could be facing a situation where many of these oil producers have locked in a price of 90 or 100 dollars a barrel on their oil but the price has fallen to about 50 dollars a barrel.

In such a case, the losses for those on the wrong end of the derivatives contracts would be astronomical.

At this point, some of the biggest players in the shale oil industry have already locked in high prices for most of their oil for the coming year.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

US producers have locked in higher prices through derivatives contracts. Noble Energy and Devon Energy have both hedged over three-quarters of their output for 2015.

Pioneer Natural Resources said it has options through 2016 covering two- thirds of its likely production.

So they are protected to a very large degree.  It is those that are on the losing end of those contracts that are going to get burned.

Of course not all shale oil producers protected themselves.  Those that didn’t are in danger of going under.

For example, Continental Resources cashed out approximately 4 billion dollars in hedges about a month ago in a gamble that oil prices would go back up.  Instead, they just kept falling, so now this company is likely headed for some rough financial times…

Continental Resources (CLR.N), the pioneering U.S. driller that bet big on North Dakota’s Bakken shale patch when its rivals were looking abroad, is once again flying in the face of convention: cashing out some $4 billion worth of hedges in a huge gamble that oil prices will rebound.

Late on Tuesday, the company run by Harold Hamm, the Oklahoma wildcatter who once sued OPEC, said it had opted to take profits on more than 31 million barrels worth of U.S. and Brent crude oil hedges for 2015 and 2016, plus as much as 8 million barrels’ worth of outstanding positions over the rest of 2014, netting a $433 million extra profit for the fourth quarter. Based on its third quarter production of about 128,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, its hedges for next year would have covered nearly two-thirds of its oil production.

Oops.

When things are nice and stable, the derivatives marketplace works quite well most of the time.

But when there is a “black swan event” such as a dramatic swing in the price of oil, it can create really big winners and really big losers.

And no matter how complicated these derivatives become, and no matter how many times you transfer risk, you can never make these bets truly safe.  The following is from a recent article by Charles Hugh Smith

Financialization is always based on the presumption that risk can be cancelled out by hedging bets made with counterparties. This sounds appealing, but as I have noted many times, risk cannot be disappeared, it can only be masked or transferred to others.

Relying on counterparties to pay out cannot make risk vanish; it only masks the risk of default by transferring the risk to counterparties, who then transfer it to still other counterparties, and so on.
This illusory vanishing act hasn’t made risk disappear: rather, it has set up a line of dominoes waiting for one domino to topple. This one domino will proceed to take down the entire line of financial dominoes.
The 35% drop in the price of oil is the first domino. All the supposedly safe, low-risk loans and bets placed on oil, made with the supreme confidence that oil would continue to trade in a band around $100/barrel, are now revealed as high-risk.

In recent years, Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world.

Most of the time the big banks are very careful to make sure that they come out on top, but this time their house of cards may come toppling down on top of them.

If you think that this is good news, you should keep in mind that if they collapse it virtually guarantees a full-blown economic meltdown.  The following is an extended excerpt from one of my previous articles

—–

For those looking forward to the day when these mammoth banks will collapse, you need to keep in mind that when they do go down the entire system is going to utterly fall apart.

At this point our economic system is so completely dependent on these banks that there is no way that it can function without them.

It is like a patient with an extremely advanced case of cancer.

Doctors can try to kill the cancer, but it is almost inevitable that the patient will die in the process.

The same thing could be said about our relationship with the “too big to fail” banks.  If they fail, so do the rest of us.

We were told that something would be done about the “too big to fail” problem after the last crisis, but it never happened.

In fact, as I have written about previously, the “too big to fail” banks have collectively gotten 37 percent larger since the last recession.

At this point, the five largest banks in the country account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks control 67 percent of all banking assets.

If those banks were to disappear tomorrow, we would not have much of an economy left.

—-

Our entire economy is based on the flow of credit.  And all of that debt comes from the banks.  That is why it has been so dangerous for us to become so deeply dependent on them.  Without their loans, the entire country could soon resemble White Flint Mall near Washington D.C….

It was once a hubbub of activity, where shoppers would snap up seasonal steals and teens would hang out to ‘look cool’.

But now White Flint Mall in Bethesda, Maryland – which opened its doors in March 1977 – looks like a modern-day mausoleum with just two tenants remaining.

Photographs taken inside the 874,000-square-foot complex show spotless faux marble floors, empty escalators and stationary elevators.

Only a couple of cars can be seen in the parking lot, where well-tended shrubbery appears to be the only thing alive.

I keep on saying it, and I will keep on saying it until it happens.  We are heading for a derivatives crisis unlike anything that we have ever seen.  It is going to make the financial meltdown of 2008 look like a walk in the park.

Our politicians promised that they would do something about the “too big to fail” banks and the out of control gambling on Wall Street, but they didn’t.

Now a day of reckoning is rapidly approaching, and it is going to horrify the entire planet.

Wall Street Admits That A Cyberattack Could Crash Our Banking System At Any Time

Cyberattack - Public DomainWall Street banks are getting hit by cyber attacks every single minute of every single day.  It is a massive onslaught that is not highly publicized because the bankers do not want to alarm the public.  But as you will see below, one big Wall Street bank is spending 250 million dollars a year just by themselves to combat this growing problem.  The truth is that our financial system is not nearly as stable as most Americans think that it is.  We have become more dependent on technology than ever before, and that comes with a potentially huge downside.  An electromagnetic pulse weapon or an incredibly massive cyberattack could conceivably take down part or all of our banking system at any time.

This week, the mainstream news is reporting on an attack on our major banks that was so massive that the FBI and the Secret Service have decided to get involved.  The following is how Forbes described what is going on…

The FBI and the Secret Service are investigating a huge wave of cyber attacks on Wall Street banks, reportedly including JP Morgan Chase, that took place in recent weeks.

The attacks may have involved the theft of multiple gigabytes of sensitive data, according to reports. Joshua Campbell, supervisory special agent at the FBI, tells Forbes: “We are working with the United States Secret Service to determine the scope of recently reported cyber attacks against several American financial institutions.”

When most people think of “cyber attacks”, they think of a handful of hackers working out of lonely apartments or the basements of their parents.  But that is not primarily what we are dealing with anymore.  Today, big banks are dealing with cyberattackers that are extremely organized and that are incredibly sophisticated.

The threat grows with each passing day, and that is why JPMorgan Chase says that “not every battle will be won” even though it is spending 250 million dollars a year in a relentless fight against cyberattacks…

JPMorgan Chase this year will spend $250 million and dedicate 1,000 people to protecting itself from cybercrime — and it still might not be completely successful, CEO Jamie Dimon warned in April.

Cyberattacks are growing every day in strength and velocity across the globe. It is going to be continual and likely never-ending battle to stay ahead of it — and, unfortunately, not every battle will be won,” Dimon said in his annual letter to shareholders.

Other big Wall Street banks have a similar perspective.  Just consider the following two quotes from a recent USA Today article

Bank of America: “Although to date we have not experienced any material losses relating to cyber attacks or other information security breaches, there can be no assurance that we will not suffer such losses in the future.”

Citigroup: “Citi has been subject to intentional cyber incidents from external sources, including (i) denial of service attacks, which attempted to interrupt service to clients and customers; (ii) data breaches, which aimed to obtain unauthorized access to customer account data; and (iii) malicious software attacks on client systems, which attempted to allow unauthorized entrance to Citi’s systems under the guise of a client and the extraction of client data. For example, in 2013 Citi and other U.S. financial institutions experienced distributed denial of service attacks which were intended to disrupt consumer online banking services. …

“… because the methods used to cause cyber attacks change frequently or, in some cases, are not recognized until launched, Citi may be unable to implement effective preventive measures or proactively address these methods.”

I don’t know about you, but those quotes do not exactly fill me with confidence.

Another potential threat that banking executives lose sleep over is the threat of electromagnetic pulse weapons.  The technology of these weapons has advanced so much that they can fit inside a briefcase now.  Just consider the following excerpt from an article that was posted on an engineering website entitled “Electromagnetic Warfare Is Here“…

The problem is growing because the technology available to attackers has improved even as the technology being attacked has become more vulnerable. Our infrastructure increasingly depends on closely integrated, high-speed electronic systems operating at low internal voltages. That means they can be laid low by short, sharp pulses high in voltage but low in energy—output that can now be generated by a machine the size of a suitcase, batteries included.

Electromagnetic (EM) attacks are not only possible—they are happening. One may be under way as you read this. Even so, you would probably never hear of it: These stories are typically hushed up, for the sake of security or the victims’ reputation.

That same article described how an attack might possibly happen…

An attack might be staged as follows. A larger electromagnetic weapon could be hidden in a small van with side panels made of fiberglass, which is transparent to EM radiation. If the van is parked about 5 to 10 meters away from the target, the EM fields propagating to the wall of the building can be very high. If, as is usually the case, the walls are mere masonry, without metal shielding, the fields will attenuate only slightly. You can tell just how well shielded a building is by a simple test: If your cellphone works well when you’re inside, then you are probably wide open to attack.

And with electromagnetic pulse weapons, terrorists or cyberattackers can try again and again until they finally get it right

And, unlike other means of attack, EM weapons can be used without much risk. A terrorist gang can be caught at the gates, and a hacker may raise alarms while attempting to slip through the firewalls, but an EM attacker can try and try again, and no one will notice until computer systems begin to fail (and even then the victims may still not know why).

Never before have our financial institutions faced potential threats on this scale.

According to the Telegraph, our banks are under assault from cyberattacks “every minute of every day”, and these attacks are continually growing in size and scope…

Every minute, of every hour, of every day, a major financial institution is under attack.

Threats range from teenagers in their bedrooms engaging in adolescent “hacktivism”, to sophisticated criminal gangs and state-sponsored terrorists attempting everything from extortion to industrial espionage. Though the details of these crimes remain scant, cyber security experts are clear that behind-the-scenes online attacks have already had far reaching consequences for banks and the financial markets.

In the end, it is probably only a matter of time until we experience a technological 9/11.

When that day arrives, will your money be safe?

The Size Of The Derivatives Bubble Hanging Over The Global Economy Hits A Record High

Bubble - Photo by Brocken InagloryThe global derivatives bubble is now 20 percent bigger than it was just before the last great financial crisis struck in 2008.  It is a financial bubble far larger than anything the world has ever seen, and when it finally bursts it is going to be a complete and utter nightmare for the financial system of the planet.  According to the Bank for International Settlements, the total notional value of derivatives contracts around the world has ballooned to an astounding 710 trillion dollars ($710,000,000,000,000).  Other estimates put the grand total well over a quadrillion dollars.  If that sounds like a lot of money, that is because it is.  For example, U.S. GDP is projected to be in the neighborhood of around 17 trillion dollars for 2014.  So 710 trillion dollars is an amount of money that is almost incomprehensible.  Instead of actually doing something about the insanely reckless behavior of the big banks, our leaders have allowed the derivatives bubble and these banks to get larger than ever.  In fact, as I have written about previously, the big Wall Street banks are collectively 37 percent larger than they were just prior to the last recession.  “Too big to fail” is a far more massive problem than it was the last time around, and at some point this derivatives bubble is going to burst and start taking those banks down.  When that day arrives, we are going to be facing a crisis that is going to make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

If you do not know what a derivative is, Mayra Rodríguez Valladares, a managing principal at MRV Associates, provided a pretty good definition in her recent article for the New York Times

A derivative, put simply, is a contract between two parties whose value is determined by changes in the value of an underlying asset. Those assets could be bonds, equities, commodities or currencies. The majority of contracts are traded over the counter, where details about pricing, risk measurement and collateral, if any, are not available to the public.

In other words, a derivative does not have any intrinsic value.  It is essentially a side bet.  Most commonly, derivative contracts have to do with the movement of interest rates.  But there are many, many other kinds of derivatives as well.  People are betting on just about anything and everything that you can imagine, and Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the planet.

After the last financial crisis, our politicians promised us that they would do something to get derivatives trading under control.  But instead, the size of the derivatives bubble has reached a new record high.  In the New York Times article I mentioned above, Goldman Sachs and Citibank were singled out as two players that have experienced tremendous growth in this area in recent years…

Goldman Sachs has been increasing its derivatives volumes since the crisis, and it had a portfolio of about $48 trillion at the end of 2013. Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported that as part of its growth strategy, Goldman plans to sell more derivatives to clients. Citibank, too, has been increasing its derivatives portfolio, despite the numerous capital and regulatory challenges, In fact, its portfolio has risen by over 65 percent since the crisis — the most of any of the four banks — to $62 trillion.

According to official government numbers, the top 25 banks in the United States now have a grand total of more than 236 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.  But there are four banks that dwarf everyone else.  The following are the latest numbers for those four banks…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,945,467,000,000 (nearly 2 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $70,088,625,000,000 (more than 70 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,346,747,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $62,247,698,000,000 (more than 62 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,433,716,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $38,850,900,000,000 (more than 38 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $105,616,000,000 (just a shade over 105 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $48,611,684,000,000 (more than 48 trillion dollars)

If the stock market keeps going up, interest rates stay fairly stable and the global economy does not experience a major downturn, this bubble will probably not burst for a while.

But if there is a major shock to the system, we could easily experience a major derivatives crisis very rapidly and several of those banks could fail simultaneously.

There are many out there that would welcome the collapse of the big banks, but that would also be very bad news for the rest of us.

You see, the truth is that the U.S. economy is like a very sick patient with an extremely advanced case of cancer.  You can try to kill the cancer (the banks), but in the process you will inevitably kill the patient as well.

Right now, the five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the entire country, and the six largest banks control 67 percent of all banking assets.

If they go down, we go down too.

That is why the fact that they have been so reckless is so infuriating.

Just look at the numbers for Goldman Sachs again.  At this point, the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 460 times greater than their total assets.

And this kind of thing is not just happening in the United States.  German banking giant Deutsche Bank has more than 75 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.  That is even more than any single U.S. bank has.

This derivatives bubble is a “sword of Damocles” that is hanging over the global economy by a thread day after day, month after month, year after year.

At some point that thread is going to break, the bubble is going to burst, and then all hell is going to break loose.

You see, the truth is that virtually none of the underlying problems that caused the last financial crisis have been fixed.

Instead, our problems have just gotten even bigger and the financial bubbles have gotten even larger.

Never before in the history of the United States have we been faced with the threat of such a great financial catastrophe.

Sadly, most Americans are totally oblivious to all of this.  They just have faith that our leaders know what they are doing, and they have been lulled into complacency by the bubble of false stability that we have been enjoying for the last couple of years.

Unfortunately for them, this bubble of false stability is not going to last much longer.

A financial crisis far greater than what we experienced in 2008 is coming, and it is going to shock the world.

Federal Reserve Whistleblower Tells America The REAL Reason For Quantitative Easing

Wheelbarrow of MoneyA banker named Andrew Huszar that helped manage the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program during 2009 and 2010 is publicly apologizing for what he has done.  He says that quantitative easing has accomplished next to nothing for the average person on the street.  Instead, he says that it has been “the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time.”  And of course the cold, hard economic numbers support what Huszar is saying.  The percentage of working age Americans with a job has not improved at all during the quantitative easing era, and median household income has actually steadily declined during that time frame.  Meanwhile, U.S. stock prices have doubled overall, and the stock prices of the big Wall Street banks have tripled.  So who benefits from quantitative easing?  It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out, and now Andrew Huszar is blowing the whistle on the whole thing.

From 2009 to 2010, Huszar was responsible for managing the Fed’s purchase of approximately $1.25 trillion worth of mortgage-backed securities.  At the time, he thought that it was a dream job, but now he is apologizing to the rest of the country for what happened…

I can only say: I’m sorry, America. As a former Federal Reserve official, I was responsible for executing the centerpiece program of the Fed’s first plunge into the bond-buying experiment known as quantitative easing. The central bank continues to spin QE as a tool for helping Main Street. But I’ve come to recognize the program for what it really is: the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time.

When the first round of quantitative easing ended, Huszar says that it was incredibly obvious that QE had done very little to benefit average Americans but that it had been “an absolute coup for Wall Street”…

Trading for the first round of QE ended on March 31, 2010. The final results confirmed that, while there had been only trivial relief for Main Street, the U.S. central bank’s bond purchases had been an absolute coup for Wall Street. The banks hadn’t just benefited from the lower cost of making loans. They’d also enjoyed huge capital gains on the rising values of their securities holdings and fat commissions from brokering most of the Fed’s QE transactions. Wall Street had experienced its most profitable year ever in 2009, and 2010 was starting off in much the same way.

You’d think the Fed would have finally stopped to question the wisdom of QE. Think again. Only a few months later—after a 14% drop in the U.S. stock market and renewed weakening in the banking sector—the Fed announced a new round of bond buying: QE2. Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, immediately called the decision “clueless.”

That was when I realized the Fed had lost any remaining ability to think independently from Wall Street.

Of course the fact that the Fed cannot think independently from Wall Street should not be a surprise to any of my regular readers.  As I have written about repeatedly, the Federal Reserve was created by the Wall Street bankers for the benefit of the Wall Street bankers.  When the Federal Reserve serves the interests of Wall Street, it is simply doing what it was designed to do.  And according to Huszar, quantitative easing has been one giant “subsidy” for Wall Street banks…

Having racked up hundreds of billions of dollars in opaque Fed subsidies, U.S. banks have seen their collective stock price triple since March 2009. The biggest ones have only become more of a cartel: 0.2% of them now control more than 70% of the U.S. bank assets.

But Huszar is certainly not the only one on Wall Street that acknowledges these things.  For example, just check out what billionaire hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller told CNBC about quantitative easing…

 

This is fantastic for every rich person,” he said Thursday, a day after the Fed’s stunning decision to delay tightening its monetary policy. “This is the biggest redistribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the rich ever.

“Who owns assets—the rich, the billionaires. You think Warren Buffett hates this stuff? You think I hate this stuff? I had a very good day yesterday.”

Druckenmiller, whose net worth is estimated at more than $2 billion, said that the implication of the Fed’s policy is that the rich will spend their wealth and create jobs—essentially betting on “trickle-down economics.”

“I mean, maybe this trickle-down monetary policy that gives money to billionaires and hopefully we go spend it is going to work,” he said. “But it hasn’t worked for five years.”

 

And Donald Trump said essentially the same thing when he made the following statement on CNBC about quantitative easing…

“People like me will benefit from this.”

The American people are still being told that quantitative easing is “economic stimulus” which will make the lives of average Americans better.

That is a flat out lie and the folks over at the Federal Reserve know this.

In fact, a very interesting study conducted for the Bank of England shows that quantitative easing actually increases the gap between the wealthy and the poor…

It said that the Bank of England’s policies of quantitative easing – similar to the Fed’s – had benefited mainly the wealthy.

Specifically, it said that its QE program had boosted the value of stocks and bonds by 26 percent, or about $970 billion. It said that about 40 percent of those gains went to the richest 5 percent of British households.

Many said the BOE’s easing added to social anger and unrest. Dhaval Joshi, of BCA Research wrote that  “QE cash ends up overwhelmingly in profits, thereby exacerbating already extreme income inequality and the consequent social tensions that arise from it.”

And this is exactly what has happened in the United States as well.

U.S. stocks have risen 108% while Barack Obama has been in the White House.

And who owns stocks?

The wealthy do.  In fact, 82 percent of all individually held stocks are owned by the wealthiest 5 percent of all Americans.

Meanwhile, things have continued to get even tougher for ordinary Americans.

While Obama has been in the White House, the percentage of working age Americans with a job has declined from 60.6% to 58.3%, median household income has declined for five years in a row, and poverty has been absolutely exploding.

But the fact that it has been very good for Wall Street while doing essentially nothing for ordinary Americans is not the biggest problem with quantitative easing.

The biggest problem with quantitative easing is that it is destroying worldwide faith in the U.S. dollar and in the U.S. financial system.

In recent years, the Federal Reserve has started to behave like the Weimar Republic.  Just check out the chart below…

M1 Money Supply 2013

The rest of the world is watching the Fed go crazy, and they are beginning to openly wonder why they should continue to use the U.S. dollar as the de facto reserve currency of the planet.

Right now, most global trade involves the use of U.S. dollars.  In fact, far more U.S. dollars are actually used outside of the United States than are used inside the country.  This creates a tremendous demand for U.S. dollars around the planet, and it keeps the value of the U.S. dollar at a level that is far higher than it otherwise would be.

If the rest of the world decides to start moving away from the U.S. dollar (and this is already starting to happen), then the demand for the U.S. dollar will fall and we will not be able to import oil from the Middle East and cheap plastic trinkets from China so inexpensively anymore.

In addition, major exporting nations such as China and Saudi Arabia end up with giant piles of U.S. dollars due to their trading activities.  Instead of just sitting on all of that cash, they tend to reinvest much of it back into U.S. Treasury securities.  This increases demand for U.S. debt and drives down interest rates.

If the Federal Reserve continues to wildly create money out of thin air with no end in sight, the rest of the world may decide to stop lending us trillions of dollars at ultra-low interest rates.

When we get to that point, it is going to be absolutely disastrous for the U.S. economy and the U.S. financial system.  If you doubt this, just read this article.

The only way that the game can continue is for the rest of the world to continue to be irrational and to continue to ignore the reckless behavior of the Federal Reserve.

We desperately need the rest of the planet “to ignore the man behind the curtain”.  We desperately need them to keep using our dollars that are rapidly being devalued and to keep loaning us money at rates that are far below the real rate of inflation.

If the rest of the globe starts behaving rationally at some point, and they eventually will, then the game will be over.

Let us hope and pray that we still have a bit more time until that happens.

Wall Street Banks Extract Enormous Fees From The Paychecks Of Millions Of American Workers

Greed - Photo by J. Solana from Madrid, SpainWould you be angry if you had to pay a big Wall Street bank a fee before you could get the money that you worked so hard to earn?  Unfortunately, that is exactly the situation that millions of American workers find themselves in today.  An increasing number of U.S. companies are paying their workers using payroll cards that are issued by large financial institutions.  Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Walgreens and Taco Bell are just some of the well known employers that are doing this.  Today, there are 4.6 million active payroll cards in the United States, and some of the largest banks in the country are issuing them.  The list includes JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup.  The big problem with these cards is that there is often a fee for just about everything that you do with them.  Do you want to use an ATM machine?  You must pay a fee.  Do you want to check your balance?  You must pay a fee.  Do you want a paper statement?  You must pay a fee.  Did you lose your card?  You must pay a big fee.  Has your card been inactive for a while?  You must pay a huge fee.  The big Wall Street banks are systematically extracting enormous fees from the working poor, and someone needs to do something to stop this.

The truth is that most American families need every penny that they earn.  In America today, 53 percent of all workers make less than $30,000 a year.

It is hard to do everything that you need to do on less than $2,500 a month.  If you doubt this, you should try it some time.

That is one reason why the fees that the big Wall Street banks hit payroll card users with are so insidious.  The following is a short excerpt from a recent CNBC article about this phenomenon…

But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards.

These fees can take such a big bite out of paychecks that some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account, according to interviews with consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators.

Devonte Yates, 21, who earns $7.25 an hour working a drive-through station at a McDonald’s in Milwaukee, says he spends $40 to $50 a month on fees associated with his JPMorgan Chase payroll card.

If you are just barely scraping by every month, can you really afford to be paying $50 a month in fees to the fatcats at JPMorgan Chase?

Of course not.

But JPMorgan Chase is far from alone.  Just check out all of the fees that another large financial institution is hitting users with…

On some of its payroll cards, NetSpend charges $2.25 for out-of-network A.T.M. withdrawals, 50 cents for balance inquiries via a representative, 50 cents for a purchase using the card, $5 for statement reprints, $10 to close an account, $25 for a balance-protection program and $7.50 after 60 days of inactivity, according to an April presentation by the company reviewed by The Times.

They are taking advantage of extremely vulnerable people and they know it.

And we see this kind of thing happening with other types of cards as well.  For example, in some states unemployment benefits are now deposited on prepaid debit cards, and the banks that issue these cards are more than happy to extract huge fees from unemployed people

Shawana Busby does not seem like the sort of customer who would be at the center of a major bank’s business plan. Out of work for much of the last three years, she depends upon a $264-a-week unemployment check from the state of South Carolina. But the state has contracted with Bank of America to administer its unemployment benefits, and Busby has frequently found herself incurring bank fees to get her money.

To withdraw her benefits, Busby, 33, uses a Bank of America prepaid debit card on which the state deposits her funds. She could visit a Bank of America ATM free of charge. But this small community in the state’s rural center, her hometown, does not have a Bank of America branch. Neither do the surrounding towns where she drops off her kids at school and attends church.

She could drive north to Columbia, the state capital, and use a Bank of America ATM there. But that entails a 50 mile drive, cutting into her gas budget. So Busby visits the ATMs in her area and begrudgingly accepts the fees, which reach as high as five dollars per transaction. She estimates that she has paid at least $350 in fees to tap her unemployment benefits.

There is something that is so greedy about all of this.

When the financial crisis hit back in 2008, the big banks had no problem begging the entire nation for mercy.

But when it comes time to show mercy to the poor, they tell us that it is “just business”.

In America today, there are tens of millions of families that are just barely surviving from month to month.  The big banks should not be preying on them like this.

With each passing year, the ranks of the working poor in this country continue to get larger.  The following statistics are from one of my previous articles entitled “35 Statistics About The Working Poor In America That Will Blow Your Mind“…

#1 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either “poor” or “low income”.

#2 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 57 percent of all American children live in a home that is either “poor” or “low income”.

#3 Back in 2007, about 28 percent of all working families were considered to be among “the working poor”.  Today, that number is up to 32 percent even though our politicians tell us that the economy is supposedly recovering.

#4 Back in 2007, 21 million U.S. children lived in “working poor” homes.  Today, that number is up to 23.5 million.

#5 In Arkansas, Mississippi and New Mexico, more than 40 percent all of working families are considered to be “low income”.

#6 Families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

#7 Half of all American workers earn $505 or less per week.

#8 At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

#9 Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

#10 Median household income in the United States has fallen for four consecutive years.

#11 Median household income for families with children dropped by a whopping $6,300 between 2001 and 2011.

#12 The U.S. economy continues to trade good paying jobs for low paying jobs.  60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

#13 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.

#14 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.

#15 There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing.  That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

#16 Low income families spend about 8.6 percent of their incomes on gasoline.  Other families spend about 2.1 percent.

#17 In 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  Today, only 55.1 percent are covered by employment-based health insurance.

#18 According to one survey, 77 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time.

#19 Millions of working poor families in America end up taking on debt in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, but before too long they find themselves in a debt trap that they can never escape.  According to a recent article in the New York Times, the average debt burden for U.S. households that earn $20,000 a year or less “more than doubled to $26,000 between 2001 and 2010“.

#20 In 1989, the debt to income ratio of the average American family was about 58 percent.  Today it is up to 154 percent.

You can find the rest of the list right here.

The working poor simply cannot afford to be paying hundreds of dollars in fees to the big banks each year just to use the money that they worked so very hard to earn.

Unfortunately, we seem to be living during a time when the big financial institutions will squeeze every nickel that they possibly can out of average Americans no matter how high the human cost is.

QE4? The Big Wall Street Banks Are Already Complaining That QE3 Is Not Enough

QE3 has barely even started and some folks on Wall Street are already clamoring for QE4.  In fact, as you will read below, one equity strategist at Morgan Stanley says that he would not be “surprised” if the Federal Reserve announced another new round of money printing by the end of the year.  But this is what tends to happen when a financial system starts becoming addicted to easy money.  There is always a deep hunger for another “hit” of “currency meth”.  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was probably hoping that QE3 would satisfy the wolves on Wall Street for a while.  His promise to recklessly print 40 billion dollars a month and use it to buy mortgage-backed securities is being called “QEInfinity” by detractors.  During QE3, nearly half a trillion dollars a year will be added to the financial system until the Fed decides that it is time to stop.  This is so crazy that even former Federal Reserve officials are speaking out against it.  For example, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker says that QE3 is the “most extreme easing of monetary policy” that he could ever remember.  But the big Wall Street banks are never going to be satisfied.  If QE4 is announced, they will start calling for QE5.  As I noted in a previous article, quantitative easing tends to pump up the prices of financial assets such as stocks and commodities, and that is very good for Wall Street bankers.  So of course they want more quantitative easing.  They always want bigger profits and bigger bonus checks at the end of the year.

But at this point the Federal Reserve has already “jumped the shark”.  If you don’t know what “jumping the shark” means, you can find a definition on Wikipedia right here.  Whatever shreds of credibility the Fed had left are being washed away by a flood of newly printed money.

Those running the Fed have essentially used up all of their bullets and the next great financial crisis has not even fully erupted yet.

So what is the Fed going to do if the stock market crashes and the credit market freezes up like we saw back in 2008?

How much more extreme can the Fed go?

One can just picture “Helicopter Ben” strapping on a pair of water skis and making the following promise….

“We are going to print so much money that we’ll make Zimbabwe and the Weimar Republic look like wimps!”

Sadly, the truth is that money printing is not a “quick fix” and it never has been.  Just look at Japan.  The Bank of Japan is on round 8 of their quantitative easing strategy, and yet things in Japan continue to get even worse.

But that is not going to stop the folks on Wall Street from calling for even more quantitative easing.

For example, the top U.S. equity strategist for Morgan Stanley, Adam Parker, made headlines all over the world this week by writing the following….

“QE3 will likely be insufficient to significantly boost equity markets and we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Fed dramatically augment this program (i.e., QE4) before year-end, particularly if economic and corporate news continue to deteriorate as they have over the past few weeks.”

Did you get what he is saying there?

He says that QE3 is not going to be enough to boost equity markets (the stock market) so more money printing will be necessary.

But wasn’t QE3 supposed to be about creating jobs and helping the middle class?

I can almost hear many of you laughing out loud already.

As I have written about before, QE3 is unlikely to change the employment picture in any significant way, but what it will do is create more inflation which will squeeze the poor, the middle class and the elderly.

The truth is that quantitative easing has always been about bailing out the banks, and the hope is that this will trickle down to the folks on Main Street as well, but that never seems to happen.

Wall Street is not calling for even more quantitative easing because it would be good for you and I.  Rather, Wall Street is calling for even more quantitative easing because it would be good for them.

A CNBC article entitled “Fed May Need to Boost QE ‘Dramatically’ This Year: Pros” discussed Wall Street’s desire for even more money printing….

The Federal Reserve’s latest easing move has been nicknamed everything from “QE3” to “QE Infinity” to “QEternal,” but some on Wall Street question whether the unprecedented move will be QEnough.

And of course everyone pretty much understands that QE3 is definitely not going to fix our economic problems.  Even most of those on Wall Street will admit as much.  In the CNBC article mentioned above, a couple of economists named Paul Ashworth and Paul Dales at Capital Economics were quoted as saying the following….

“The Fed can commit to deliver whatever economic outcome it likes, but the problem is that  the crisis in the euro-zone and/or a stand-off in negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff in the U.S. may well reveal it to be like the proverbial Emperor with no clothes”

An emperor with no clothes?

I think the analogy fits.

The Federal Reserve is going to keep printing and printing and printing and things are not going to get any better.

At this point, economists at Goldman Sachs are already projecting that QE3 will likely stretch into 2015….

The Federal Reserve’s QE3 bond buying program announced earlier this month could last until the middle of 2015 and eventually reach $2 trillion, according to an estimate from economists at Goldman Sachs.

The Goldman economists also wrote in a report that they believe the Fed will not raise the federal funds rate until 2016. This rate, which is used as a benchmark for a wide variety of consumer and business loans, has been near 0% since December 2008. The Fed said in its last statement that it expected rates would remain low until mid-2015.

So why is Wall Street whining and complaining so loudly right now?

Well, even with all of the bailouts and even with all of the help from the first two rounds of quantitative easing, things are still tough for them.

For example, Bank of America recently announced that they will be laying off 16,000 workers.

In addition, there are rumors that 100 highly paid partners at Goldman Sachs are going to be getting the axe.  It is said that Goldman will save 2 billion dollars with such a move.

We haven’t even reached the next great financial crisis and the pink slips are already flying on Wall Street.  Meredith Whitney says that she has never seen anything quite like this….

“The industry is as bad as I’ve seen it. So it’s certainly not a great time to be on Wall Street.”

But of course Wall Street is not going to get much sympathy from the rest of America.  The truth is that things have been far rougher for most of the rest of us than things have been for them.

When the last crisis hit, they got trillions of dollars in bailout money and we got nothing.

So most people are not really in a mood to shed any tears for Wall Street.

But of course the Federal Reserve is definitely hoping to help their friends on Wall Street out by printing lots of money.

You never know, by the time this is all over we may see QE4, QE5, QE Reloaded, QE With A Vengeance and QE The Return Of The Bernanke.

Meanwhile, Europe is gearing up to print money like crazy too.

A couple months ago, European Central Bank President  Mario Draghi made the following pledge….

“Within our mandate, the European Central Bank is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro, and believe me, it will be enough.”

And of course the Bank of Japan has joined the money printing party too.  The following is from a recent article by David Kotok….

The recently announced additional program by the BOJ includes a fifty-percent allocation to the purchase of ten-year Japanese government bonds. The other fifty percent will buy shorter-term government securities. Thus, the BOJ is applying half of its additional QE stimulus to extracting long duration from the government bond market, denominated in Japanese yen.

All of the central banks seem to be getting on the QE bandwagon.

But will this fix anything?

Unfortunately it will not, at least according to Paul Volcker….

“Another round of QE is understandable – but it will fail to fix the problem. There is so much liquidity in the market that adding more is not going to change the economy.”

Sadly, most Americans have a ton of faith in the people running our system, but the truth is that they really do not know what they are doing.  Just check out what Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said the other day….

“The truth, however, is that nobody on the committee, nor on our staffs at the Board of Governors and the 12 Banks, really knows what is holding back the economy. Nobody really knows what will work to get the economy back on course. And nobody – in fact, no central bank anywhere on the planet – has the experience of successfully navigating a return home from the place in which we now find ourselves. No central bank – not, at least, the Federal Reserve – has ever been on this cruise before.”

Can you imagine the head coach of a football team coming in at halftime and telling his players the following….

“Nobody on the coaching stuff really has any idea what will work.”

That sure would not inspire a lot of confidence, would it?

Perhaps the Fed should be open to some input from the rest of us.

Actually, back on September 14th the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco posted a poll on Facebook that asked the following question….

What effect do you think QE3 will have on the U.S. economy?

The following are the 5 answers that got the most votes….

-“Long term, disastrous”

-“Negative”

-“Thanks for $5 gas”

-“I can’t believe you think this will work!”

-“Fire Bernanke”

So what do you think about the quantitative easing that the Federal Reserve is doing?

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

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