Americans Really, Really Hate The Government

Anger - Public DomainIf there is one thing that Americans can agree on these days, it is the fact that most of us don’t like the government.  CBS News has just released an article entitled “Americans hate the U.S. government more than ever“, and an average of recent surveys calculated by Real Clear Politics found that 63 percent of all Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction and only 28 percent of all Americans believe that the country is heading in the right direction.  In just a few days the first real ballots of the 2016 election will be cast in Iowa, and up to this point the big story of this cycle has been the rise of “outsider” candidates that many of the pundits had assumed would never have a legitimate chance.  Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders have all been beneficiaries of the overwhelming disgust that the American people feel regarding what has been going on in Washington.

And it isn’t just Barack Obama or members of Congress that Americans are disgusted with.  According to the CBS News article that I referenced above, our satisfaction with various federal agencies has fallen to an eight year low…

A handful of industries are those “love to hate” types of businesses, such as cable-television companies and Internet service providers.

The federal government has joined the ranks of the bottom-of-the-barrel industries, according to a new survey from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Americans’ satisfaction level in dealing with federal agencies –everything from Treasury to Homeland Security — has fallen for a third consecutive year, reaching an eight-year low.

So if we are all so fed up with the way that things are running, it should be easy to fix right?

Unfortunately, things are not so simple.

In America today, we are more divided as a nation than ever.  If you ask 100 different people how we should fix this country, you are going to get 100 very different answers.  We no longer have a single shared set of values or principles that unites us, and therefore it is going to be nearly impossible for us to come together on specific solutions.

You would think that the principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution should be able to unite us, but sadly those days are long gone.  In fact, the word “constitutionalist” has become almost synonymous with “terrorist” in our nation.  If you go around calling yourself a “constitutionalist” in America today, there is a good chance that you will be dismissed as a radical right-wing wacko that probably needs to be locked up.

The increasing division in our nation can be seen very clearly during this election season.  On the left, an admitted socialist is generating the most enthusiasm of any of the candidates.  Among many Democrats today, Hillary Clinton is simply “not liberal enough” and no longer represents their values.

On the other end of the spectrum, a lot of Republican voters are gravitating toward either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.  Both of those candidates represent a complete break from how establishment Republicans have been doing things in recent years.

Now don’t get me wrong – I am certainly not suggesting that we need to meet in the middle.  My point is that there is absolutely no national consensus about what we should do.  On the far left, they want to take us into full-blown socialism.  Those that support Donald Trump or Ted Cruz want to take us in a more conservative direction.  But even among Republicans there are vast disagreements about how to fix this country.  Establishment Republicans greatly dislike both Trump and Cruz, and they are quite determined to do whatever it takes to keep either of them from getting the nomination.  The elite have grown very accustomed to anointing the nominee from each party every four years, and so the popularity of Trump and Cruz is making them quite uneasy this time around.  The following comes from the New York Times

The members of the party establishment are growing impatient as they watch Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz dominate the field heading into the Iowa caucuses next Monday and the New Hampshire primary about a week later.

The party elders had hoped that one of their preferred candidates, such as Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, would be rising above the others by now and becoming a contender to rally around.

The global elite gathered in Davos, Switzerland are also greatly displeased with Trump.  Just check out some of the words that they are using to describe him

Unbelievable“, “embarrassing” even “dangerous” are some of the words the financial elite gathered at the World Economic Forum conference in the Swiss resort of Davos have been using to describe U.S. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

Although some said they still expected his campaign to founder before his party picks its nominee for the November election many said it was no longer unthinkable that he could be the Republican candidate.

The truth is that the Republican Party represents somewhere less than half the population in the United States, and today it is at war with itself.  Supporters of Trump have a significantly different vision of the future than supporters of Cruz, and the establishment wing wants nothing to do with either candidate.

A lot of people seem to assume that since Trump is leading in the polls that he will almost certainly get the nomination.

That is not exactly a safe bet.

It is my contention that the establishment will pull out every trick in the book to keep either him or Cruz from getting the nomination.  And in order to lock up the nomination before the Republican convention, a candidate will need to have secured slightly more than 60 percent of all of the delegates during the caucuses and the primaries.

The following is an excerpt from one of my previous articles in which I discussed the difficult delegate math that the Republican candidates are facing this time around…

It is going to be much more difficult for Donald Trump to win the Republican nomination than most people think.  In order to win the nomination, a candidate must secure at least 1,237 of the 2,472 delegates that are up for grabs.  But not all of them will be won during the state-by-state series of caucuses and primaries that will take place during the first half of 2016.  Of the total of 2,472 Republican delegates, 437 of them are unpledged delegates – and 168 of those are members of the Republican National Committee.  And unless you have been hiding under a rock somewhere, you already know that the Republican National Committee is not a fan of Donald Trump.  In order to win the Republican nomination without any of the unpledged delegates, Trump would need to win 60.78 percent of the delegates that are up for grabs during the caucuses and primaries.  And considering that his poll support is hovering around 30 percent right now, that is a very tall order.

In the past, it was easier for a front-runner to pile up delegates in “winner take all” states, but for this election cycle the Republicans have changed quite a few things.  In 2016, all states that hold caucuses or primaries before March 15th must award their delegates proportionally.  So when Trump wins any of those early states, he won’t receive all of the delegates.  Instead, he will just get a portion of them based on the percentage of the vote that he received.

In 2016, more delegates will be allocated on a proportional basis by the Republicans than ever before, and with such a crowded field that makes it quite likely that no candidate will have secured enough delegates for the nomination by the time the Republican convention rolls around.

If no candidate has more than 60 percent of the delegates by the end of the process, then it is quite likely that we will see the first true “brokered convention” in decades.

If we do see a “brokered convention”, that would almost surely result in an establishment candidate coming away with the nomination.  That list of names would include Bush, Rubio, Christie and Kasich.

And if by some incredible miracle either Trump or Cruz does get the nomination, the elite will move heaven and earth to make sure that Hillary Clinton ends up in the White House.

For decades, it has seemed like nothing ever really changes no matter which political party is in power, and that is exactly how the elite like it.

Our two major political parties are really just two sides of the same coin, and they are both leading this nation right down the toilet.

If You Listen Carefully, The Bankers Are Actually Telling Us What Is Going To Happen Next

World From Space - Public DomainAre we on the verge of a major worldwide economic downturn?  Well, if recent warnings from prominent bankers all over the world are to be believed, that may be precisely what we are facing in the months ahead.  As you will read about below, the big banks are warning that the price of oil could soon drop as low as 20 dollars a barrel, that a Greek exit from the eurozone could push the EUR/USD down to 0.90, and that the global economy could shrink by more than 2 trillion dollars in 2015.  Most of the time, very few people ever actually read the things that the big banks write for their clients.  But in recent months, a lot of these bankers are issuing such ominous warnings that you would think that they have started to write for The Economic Collapse Blog.  Of course we have seen this happen before.  Just before the financial crisis of 2008, a lot of people at the big banks started to get spooked, and now we are beginning to see an atmosphere of fear spread on Wall Street once again.  Nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next, but an increasing number of experts are starting to agree that it won’t be good.

Let’s start with oil.  Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen a nice rally for the price of oil.  It has bounced back into the low 50s, which is still a catastrophically low level, but it has many hoping for a rebound to a range that will be healthy for the global economy.

Unfortunately, many of the experts at the big banks are now anticipating that the exact opposite will happen instead.  For example, Citibank says that we could see the price of oil go as low as 20 dollars this year…

The recent rally in crude prices looks more like a head-fake than a sustainable turning point — The drop in US rig count, continuing cuts in upstream capex, the reading of technical charts, and investor short position-covering sustained the end-January 8.1% jump in Brent and 5.8% jump in WTI into the first week of February.

Short-term market factors are more bearish, pointing to more price pressure for the next couple of months and beyond — Not only is the market oversupplied, but the consequent inventory build looks likely to continue toward storage tank tops. As on-land storage fills and covers the carry of the monthly spreads at ~$0.75/bbl, the forward curve has to steepen to accommodate a monthly carry closer to $1.20, putting downward pressure on prompt prices. As floating storage reaches its limits, there should be downward price pressure to shut in production.

The oil market should bottom sometime between the end of Q1 and beginning of Q2 at a significantly lower price level in the $40 range — after which markets should start to balance, first with an end to inventory builds and later on with a period of sustained inventory draws. It’s impossible to call a bottom point, which could, as a result of oversupply and the economics of storage, fall well below $40 a barrel for WTI, perhaps as low as the $20 range for a while.

Even though rigs are shutting down at a pace that we have not seen since the last recession, overall global supply still significantly exceeds overall global demand.  Barclays analyst Michael Cohen recently told CNBC that at this point the total amount of excess supply is still in the neighborhood of a million barrels per day…

“What we saw in the last couple weeks is rig count falling pretty precipitously by about 80 or 90 rigs per week, but we think there are more important things to be focused on and that rig count doesn’t tell the whole story.”

He expects to see some weakness going into the shoulder season for demand. In addition, there is an excess supply of about a million barrels of oil a day, he said.

And the truth is that many firms simply cannot afford to shut down their rigs.  Many are leveraged to the hilt and are really struggling just to service their debt payments.  They have to keep pumping so that they can have revenue to meet their financial obligations.  The following comes directly from the Bank for International Settlements

“Against this background of high debt, a fall in the price of oil weakens the balance sheets of producers and tightens credit conditions, potentially exacerbating the price drop as a result of sales of oil assets, for example, more production is sold forward,” BIS said.

“Second, in flow terms, a lower price of oil reduces cash flows and increases the risk of liquidity shortfalls in which firms are unable to meet interest payments. Debt service requirements may induce continued physical production of oil to maintain cash flows, delaying the reduction in supply in the market.”

In the end, a lot of these energy companies are going to go belly up if the price of oil does not rise significantly this year.  And any financial institutions that are exposed to the debt of these companies or to energy derivatives will likely be in a great deal of distress as well.

Meanwhile, the overall global economy continues to slow down.

On Monday, we learned that the Baltic Dry Index has dropped to the lowest level ever.  Not even during the darkest depths of the last recession did it drop this low.

And there are some at the big banks that are warning that this might just be the beginning.  For instance, David Kostin of Goldman Sachs is projecting that sales growth for S&P 500 companies will be zero percent for all of 2015…

“Consensus now forecasts 0% S&P 500 sales growth in 2015 following a 5% cut in revenue forecasts since October. Low oil prices along with FX headwinds and pension charges have weighed on 4Q EPS results and expectations for 2015.”

Others are even more pessimistic than that.  According to Bank of America, the global economy will actually shrink by 2.3 trillion dollars in 2015.

One thing that could greatly accelerate our economic problems is the crisis in Greece.  If there is no compromise and a new Greek debt deal is not reached, there is a very real possibility that Greece could leave the eurozone.

If Greece does leave the eurozone, the continued existence of the monetary union will be thrown into doubt and the euro will utterly collapse.

Of course I am not the only one saying these things.  Analysts at Morgan Stanley are even projecting that the EUR/USD could plummet to 0.90 if there is a “Grexit”…

The Greek Prime Minister has reaffirmed his government’s rejection of the country’s international bailout programme two days before an emergency meeting with the euro area’s finance ministers on Wednesday. His declaration suggested increasing minimum wages, restoring the income tax-free threshold and halting infrastructure privatisations. Should Greece stay firm on its current anti-bailout course and with the ECB not accepting Greek T-bills as collateral, the position of ex-Fed Chairman Greenspan will gain increasing credibility. He forecast the eurozone to break as private investors will withdraw from providing short-term funding to Greece. Greece leaving the currency union would convert the union into a club of fixed exchange rates, a type of ERM III, leading to further fragmentation. Greek Fin Min Varoufakis said the euro will collapse if Greece exits, calling Italian debt unsustainable. Markets may gain the impression that Greece may not opt for a compromise, instead opting for an all or nothing approach when negotiating on Wednesday. It seems the risk premium of Greece leaving EMU is rising. Our scenario analysis suggests a Greek exit taking EURUSD down to 0.90.

If that happens, we could see a massive implosion of the 26 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the euro.

We are moving into a time of great peril for global financial markets, and there are a whole host of signs that we are slowly heading into another major global economic crisis.

So don’t be fooled by all of the happy talk in the mainstream media.  They did not see the last crisis coming either.

 

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