The More Illegal Immigrants That Go On Food Stamps The More Money JP Morgan Makes

Greed - Photo by J. Solana from Madrid, SpainRecently uncovered documents prove that the Obama administration has been working with the Mexican government to increase the number of illegal immigrants on food stamps, and when more illegal immigrants go on food stamps JP Morgan makes more money.  As you will read about below, JP Morgan has made at least 560 million dollars processing Electronic Benefits Transfer cards.  Each month, JP Morgan makes between $.31 and $2.30 for every single person on food stamps (and that does not even include things like ATM fees, etc).  So JP Morgan has a vested interest in seeing poverty grow and the number of people on food stamps increase.  Meanwhile, the Obama administration has been aggressively seeking to expand participation in the food stamp program.  Under Obama, the number of people on food stamps has grown from 32 million to more than 47 million.  And even though poverty in America is absolutely exploding, that apparently is not good enough for the Obama administration.  It has now come out that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided the Mexican government with literature that actively encourages illegal immigrants to enroll in food stamps.  One flyer contains the following statement in Spanish: “You need not divulge information regarding your immigration status in seeking this benefit for your children.”  The bold and the underlining are in the original document in case you were wondering.  Overall, federal spending on food stamps increased from 18 billion dollars in 2000 to 85 billion dollars in 2012, and at this point one out of every five U.S. households in now enrolled in the food stamp program.  When people illegally or fraudulently enroll in the food stamp program, it makes it harder for those that desperately need the help to be able to get it.

It is certainly a good thing to help fellow Americans that are suffering.  It is a crying shame that more than a million public school students in America are homeless.  That should not be happening in the “wealthiest nation on earth”.

But today we have a system that has turned poverty into big business.  According to an article posted on Breitbart.com, JP Morgan has made at least 560 million dollars (and probably much more) processing EBT cards…

A new report by the Government Accountability Institute finds that JP Morgan has made at least $560,492,596 since 2004 processing the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards of 18 of the 24 states it has under contract for the food stamp program.

A Daily Beast article provided some more specifics about the monster profits that JP Morgan is making…

Just how lucrative JP Morgan’s EBT state contracts are is hard to say, because total national data on EBT contracts are not reported. But thanks to a combination of public-records requests and contracts that are available online, here’s what we do know: 18 of the 24 states JP Morgan handles have been contracted to pay the bank up to $560,492,596.02 since 2004. Since 2007, Florida has been contracted to pay JP Morgan $90,351,202.22. Pennsylvania’s seven-year contract totaled $112,541,823.27. New York’s seven-year contract totaled $126,394,917.

These contracts are transactional contracts, meaning they are amendable based on changes in program participation. Each month, the three companies that administer EBT receive a small fee that can range from $.31 to $2.30 (or higher depending upon the number of welfare services on an EBT card and state contractual requirements) for each SNAP recipient.

So the more people that are out of work and that need to turn to the government for food, the bigger profits that JP Morgan makes.

What makes all of this even more insulting is that many of the jobs that JP Morgan could be providing to Americans to help alleviate this poverty are being shipped overseas instead.  As I noted in a previous article, many EBT card customer service calls are being routed to call centers in India by JP Morgan.

So why doesn’t anyone do anything about this?

Well, it turns out that JP Morgan has the politicians that oversee the food stamp program in their back pocket.  The following is from a recent Money Morning article

And the bank has taken steps to make sure the SNAP program remains a growing source of revenue. JPMorgan’s political donations to the members of House and Senate agricultural committees, the ones with legislative responsibility for the program, soared from just over $82,000 in 2002 to nearly $333,000 as of 2010.

What a wonderful system we have, eh?

And surely JP Morgan just loves the fact that the Obama administration is actively encouraging illegal immigrants to apply for food stamps.

What you are about to read should absolutely shock you.  At a time when the U.S. government is absolutely drowning in debt, the Obama administration is making it abundantly clear to illegal immigrants that their immigration status will not be checked when they apply for food stamps.  The following is from a recent Judicial Watch press release

Judicial Watch today released documents detailing how the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working with the Mexican government to promote participation by illegal aliens in the U.S. food stamp program.

The promotion of the food stamp program, now known as “SNAP” (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), includes a Spanish-language flyer provided to the Mexican Embassy by the USDA with a statement advising Mexicans in the U.S. that they do not need to declare their immigration status in order to receive financial assistance.  Emphasized in bold and underlined, the statement reads, “You need not divulge information regarding your immigration status in seeking this benefit for your children.”

The documents came in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made to USDA on July 20, 2012.  The FOIA request sought: “Any and all records of communication relating to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to Mexican Americans, Mexican nationals, and migrant communities, including but not limited to, communications with the Mexican government.”

The documents obtained by Judicial Watch show that USDA officials are working closely with their counterparts at the Mexican Embassy to widely broaden the SNAP program in the Mexican immigrant community, with no effort to restrict aid to, identify, or apprehend illegal immigrants who may be on the food stamp rolls.

You can see a copy of the flyer right here.

So who pays for all of this?

You do of course.

The Obama administration is doing all that it can to promote illegal immigration, and big banks such as JP Morgan just make bigger profits the more illegal immigration that we see, but it is you and I that end up with the bill.  This was put beautifully in a recent article by Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com

Nearly $75 billion of taxpayer money is spent each year on federal food stamps, and it turns out some of that is alarmingly being handed out to illegal immigrants — people who contribute nothing to the federal tax base in America but who seem to be experts on collecting social welfare benefits of all kinds. If you are working for a living, you are buying food for illegals who are being actively recruited by Obama and the democratic party so that they will vote more democrats into office.

When we reward illegal immigration, what happens?

That’s right – we are just going to get even more illegal immigration.

According to WND, we have already started seeing a huge increase in illegal immigrants coming across the border since Congress began debating the amnesty bill…

Illegal border crossings have doubled, and possibly even tripled, since the latest congressional push began toward comprehensive immigration reform.

In reporting first published by Townhall.com’s Katie Pavlich, border patrol agents in the Tucson/Nogales sector claim illegals are coming here in much higher numbers in just the past few months.

“We’ve seen the number of illegal aliens double, maybe even triple since amnesty talk started happening,” an unnamed border agent said to Townhall. The data from Customs and Border Protection cited in the report shows 504 illegals were detected crossing in that sector between Feb. 5 and March 1. Only 189 were caught on camera, and just 174 of the 504 were apprehended. Of those spotted on camera, 32 were carrying huge packs believed to contain drugs and several were heavily armed.

If that bill is passed, it is being projected that it will bring 33 million more people into this country…

The pending Senate immigration bill would bring a minimum of 33 million people into the country during its first decade of operation, according to an analysis by NumbersUSA, a group that wants to slow the current immigration rate.

By 2024, the inflow would include an estimated 9.2 million illegal immigrants, plus 2.5 million illegals who arrived as children — dubbed ‘Dreamers’ — plus roughly 3.4 million company-sponsored employees with university degrees, said the unreleased analysis.

The majority of the inflow, or roughly 17 million people, would consist of family members of illegals, recent immigrants and of company-sponsored workers, according to the NumbersUSA analysis provided to The Daily Caller.

We have made legal immigration a complete and total nightmare while leaving the back door completely wide open at the same time.

We greatly punish those who are trying to do things legally while at the same time we are greatly rewarding those that are cheating the system.

What kind of sense does that make?

Shouldn’t we insist that everyone come in through the front door?

Those that are coming over our borders illegally know what the score is

Linda Vickers, who owns a ranch in Brooks County, which is Ground Zero for the immigration debate, pins the blame directly on talk of ‘amnesty’ and a ‘path to citizenship’ for people who entered the U.S. illegally.

She recalls one man being arrested on her ranch not long ago.

“The Border Patrol agent was loading one man up, and he told the officer in Spanish, ‘Obama’s gonna let me go’.”

Border Patrol agents report that immigrants are crossing the border, and in some cases surrendering while asking, “Where do I go for my amnesty?”

We are already becoming a poverty-stricken nation.  We simply can’t afford to feed millions upon millions of illegal immigrants as well.

As I write this, the U.S. national debt is $16,758,107,082,298.63.

We now have a debt to GDP ratio of about 105 percent.

In the United States today, the amount of money that is deposited in our banks is about 9.3 trillion dollars.  If we took every penny of that and used it to pay off the national debt, we would still owe more than 7 trillion dollars.

We are stealing more than 100 million dollars from future generations of Americans every single hour of every single day to pay our bills, and yet everyone seems to think that this is “normal” somehow.

The truth is that what we are doing is absolutely criminal, and we should all be ashamed.

For much more on our exploding national debt, please see the following article: “55 Facts About The Debt And U.S. Government Finances That Every American Voter Should Know“.

In the end, it should be apparent to everyone that our system is failing.  Our government is corrupt, our big banks are consumed with greed and most average Americans are so addicted to entertainment that they have absolutely no idea what is going on.

What would those that bled and died for this country think about what we have become today?

JP Morgan Chase Tower - Photo by Krzykol

Rise Of The Droids: Will Robots Eventually Steal All Of Our Jobs?

Rise Of The Droids: Will Robots Eventually Steal All Of Our Jobs? - Photo by stephen bowlerWill a robot take your job?  We have entered a period in human history when technology is advancing at an exponential rate.  In some ways, this has been a great blessing for humanity.  For example, I am absolutely blown away by all of the things that my little iPod can do.  But on the other hand, all of this technology is eliminating millions upon millions of high paying jobs.  In the past, I have written extensively about how millions of American jobs have been sent to the other side of the world, but now we may be moving into a time when workers all over the planet will be steadily losing jobs to super-efficient robots.  For employers, robots provide a lot of advantages to human workers.  Robots never complain, they never get tired, they never need vacation, they never show up late, they never waste time of Facebook, they don’t need any health benefits and there are a whole lot of rules, regulations and taxes that you must deal with when you hire a human worker.  In the past, robots were exceedingly expensive, and that limited their usefulness in the workplace, but as you will see later in this article that is rapidly changing.  As robots continue to become even more advanced and even less expensive, will there eventually come a point where the “human worker” is virtually obsolete?

Of course I can hear the objections already.  Many of you will insist that even though automation has always eliminated jobs in the past, it has also always created new jobs that were even better.  For instance, once upon a time most of the U.S. population worked on farms, but thanks to automation now hardly any of us do.

But what happens when we get to the point where super-intelligent robots are more efficient at everything?

What will be left for “human workers” to do?

And if human workers are no longer needed for most tasks, what will their role in society be?

Personally, I still complain about self-service check-in kiosks at airports and self-checkout lanes at supermarkets, but most people seem to have accepted them.  There are even many bank branches now that don’t have any humans in them at all.  The number of jobs where a human worker is absolutely “required” is dwindling all the time.

And a lot of the jobs that are disappearing thanks to advances in technology are fairly high paying jobs.  In fact, one recent study of employment data from 20 countries discovered that “almost all the jobs disappearing are in industries that pay middle-class wages, ranging from $38,000 to $68,000.”

As I mentioned earlier, in the past robots were simply far too expensive to perform most tasks.  So human workers had an advantage.

But that advantage is disappearing right in front of our eyes.  For example, one company has produced a new robot called “Baxter” that only costs $22,000.  The following is from an article about Baxter in the MIT Technology Review

Baxter was conceived by Rodney Brooks, the Australian roboticist and artificial-intelligence expert who left MIT to build a $22,000 humanoid robot that can easily be programmed to do simple jobs that have never been automated before.

Eventually, the goal is to produce versions of Baxter that will perform tasks even more cheaply than Chinese workers do…

Brooks’s company, Rethink Robotics, says the robot will spark a “renaissance” in American manufacturing by helping small companies compete against low-wage offshore labor. Baxter will do that by accelerating a trend of factory efficiency that’s eliminated more jobs in the U.S. than overseas competition has. Of the approximately 5.8 million manufacturing jobs the U.S. lost between 2000 and 2010, according to McKinsey Global Institute, two-thirds were lost because of higher productivity and only 20 percent moved to places like China, Mexico, or Thailand.

The ultimate goal is for robots like Baxter to take over more complex tasks, such as fitting together parts on an electronics assembly line. “A couple more ticks of Moore’s Law and you’ve got automation that works more cheaply than Chinese labor does,” Andrew McAfee, an MIT researcher, predicted last year at a conference in Tucson, Arizona, where Baxter was discussed.

So it won’t just be American workers that will be displaced by robots – it will literally be workers all over the planet.

In the future, when you call someone for customer service you probably won’t be talking to someone in India.  Instead, you will probably be talking to a robot.  In fact, this transition is already starting to happen…

IPsoft is a young company started by Chetan Dube, a former mathematics professor at New York University. He reckons that artificial intelligence can take over most of the routine information-technology and business-process tasks currently performed by workers in offshore locations. “The last decade was about replacing labour with cheaper labour,” says Mr Dube. “The coming decade will be about replacing cheaper labour with autonomics.”

IPsoft’s Eliza, a “virtual service-desk employee” that learns on the job and can reply to e-mail, answer phone calls and hold conversations, is being tested by several multinationals. At one American media giant she is answering 62,000 calls a month from the firm’s information-technology staff. She is able to solve two out of three of the problems without human help. At IPsoft’s media-industry customer Eliza has replaced India’s Tata Consulting Services.

Even some of the largest companies in China are starting to make the transition from human workers to robots.  The following is from a recent TechCrunch article

Foxconn has been planning to buy 1 million robots to replace human workers and it looks like that change, albeit gradual, is about to start.

The company is allegedly paying $25,000 per robot – about three times a worker’s average salary – and they will replace humans in assembly tasks. The plans have been in place for a while – I spoke to Foxconn reps about this a year ago – and it makes perfect sense. Humans are messy, they want more money, and having a half-a-million of them in one factory is a recipe for unrest. But what happens after the halls are clear of careful young men and women and instead full of whirring robots?

So what will the world look like as robots begin to replace humans in just about every industry that you can imagine?

A recent Wired article described what this transition might look like…

First, machines will consolidate their gains in already-automated industries. After robots finish replacing assembly line workers, they will replace the workers in warehouses. Speedy bots able to lift 150 pounds all day long will retrieve boxes, sort them, and load them onto trucks. Fruit and vegetable picking will continue to be robotized until no humans pick outside of specialty farms. Pharmacies will feature a single pill-dispensing robot in the back while the pharmacists focus on patient consulting. Next, the more dexterous chores of cleaning in offices and schools will be taken over by late-night robots, starting with easy-to-do floors and windows and eventually getting to toilets. The highway legs of long-haul trucking routes will be driven by robots embedded in truck cabs.

All the while, robots will continue their migration into white-collar work. We already have artificial intelligence in many of our machines; we just don’t call it that. Witness one piece of software by Narrative Science (profiled in issue 20.05) that can write newspaper stories about sports games directly from the games’ stats or generate a synopsis of a company’s stock performance each day from bits of text around the web. Any job dealing with reams of paperwork will be taken over by bots, including much of medicine. Even those areas of medicine not defined by paperwork, such as surgery, are becoming increasingly robotic. The rote tasks of any information-intensive job can be automated. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, lawyer, architect, reporter, or even programmer: The robot takeover will be epic.

I don’t know about you, but the phrase “robot takeover” is not exactly comforting.

Perhaps I just watch too many movies.

In any event, as technology advances there will eventually be very few jobs that robots cannot perform.  In fact, you might be surprised to learn some of the things that robots are already doing.  The following is from a recent Yahoo News article

Google and Toyota are rolling out cars that can drive themselves. The Pentagon deploys robots to find roadside explosives in Afghanistan and wages war from the air with drone aircraft. North Carolina State University this month introduced a high-tech library where robots — “bookBots” — retrieve books when students request them, instead of humans. The library’s 1.5 million books are no longer displayed on shelves; they’re kept in 18,000 metal bins that require one-ninth the space.

So what will the 3.1 million Americans that drive trucks do for a living once robots are driving all of our trucks?

What will the 573,000 Americans that drive buses do for a living once robots are driving all of our buses?

And eventually even our skies may be filled with robotic drones that are busy performing one task or another.  Just check out what a recent Time Magazine article had to say about the emerging drone industry…

But the drone industry is ramping up for a big landgrab the moment the regulatory environment starts to relax. At last year’s Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) trade show in Las Vegas, more than 500 companies pitched drones for filming crowds and tornados and surveying agricultural fields, power lines, coalfields, construction sites, gas spills and archaeological digs. A Palo Alto, Calif., start-up called Matternet wants to establish a network of drones that will transport small, urgent packages, like those for medicine.

In other countries civilian drone populations are already booming. Aerial video is a major application. A U.K. company called Skypower makes the eight-rotored Cinipro drone, which can carry a cinema-quality movie camera. In Costa Rica they’re used to study volcanoes. In Japan drones dust crops and track schools of tuna; emergency workers used one to survey the damage at Fukushima. A nature preserve in Kenya ran a crowdsourced fundraising drive to buy drones to watch over the last few northern white rhinos. Ironically, while the U.S. has been the leader in sending drones overseas, it’s lagging behind when it comes to deploying them on its own turf.

Unfortunately, many people will not understand what I am really trying to get at in this article.

They will just say something like this: “Well, they are going to need someone to build all of those robots.”

Even if that is true, they won’t need hundreds of millions of us to build them.

No, the truth is that when human workers become “obsolete”, those that dominate society with technology will look at the rest of us as “useless eaters” that are not contributing anything to society at all.

Already, there are many economists that are warning that advancements in technology are steadily reducing “the natural employment rate”.

And we are already seeing this happen in the United States.  As I wrote about the other day, the percentage of the labor force that is employed has declined every single year since 2006…

2006: 63.1

2007: 63.0

2008: 62.2

2009: 59.3

2010: 58.5

2011: 58.4

In January, only 57.9 percent of the civilian labor force was employed.

Of course there are certainly a lot of factors involved in why those numbers are declining, but without a doubt technology is playing a role.

So what do we do with all of the workers that are being displaced?

Are we just going to put everybody on food stamps?

Will the gap between the rich and the poor grow even larger than it is today?

Will most people eventually become dependent on the government in order to survive?

We are moving into uncharted territory, and nobody is quite sure what comes next.

As time goes by, robots will even start to look more like us.  In fact, this is already starting to happen.  Just check out the following description of a “bionic man” that has been created from a recent article in the Guardian

He cuts a dashing figure, this gentleman: nearly seven feet tall, and possessed of a pair of striking brown eyes. With a fondness for Ralph Lauren, middle-class rap and sharing a drink with friends, Rex is, in many ways, an unexceptional chap.

Except that he is, in fact, a real-world bionic man. Housed within a frame of state-of-the-art prosthetic limbs is a functional heart-lung system, complete with artificial blood pumping through a network of pulsating modified-polymer arteries. He has a bionic spleen to clean the blood, and an artificial pancreas to keep his blood sugar on the level. Behind the deep brown irises are a pair of retinal implants, giving him a vista of the crowds of curious humans who meet his gaze.

He even has a degree of artificial intelligence: talk to him, and he’ll listen (through his cochlear implants), before using a speech generator to respond.

As robots become more like us, will we eventually become more like them?

Will we be told that we must “merge with the machines” in order to keep up and be useful in society?

As we rapidly approach the “technological singularity” that futurist Ray Kurzweil and others have talked about, will humans increasingly seek to “enhance” themselves with technology in an attempt to “get an edge”?

What will happen to those of us that refuse to “merge with the machines” and that refuse to “enhance ourselves” with technology?

Will we be outcasts?

Those are some important questions.  Feel free to share your thoughts on those questions by posting a comment below…

Terminator - Photo by tenaciousme

The Twinkie That Broke The Economy’s Back?

Can you hear that sound?  It is the sound of the air being let out of the economy.  Since the election, there has been a massive tsunami of layoffs and business failures.  Of course the company that is making the biggest headlines right now is Hostess.  On Monday, Hostess will be in a New York bankruptcy courtroom as it begins the process of liquidating itself.  Needless to say, Twinkie lovers all over America are horrified.  Many are running out to grocery stores and hoarding as many as they can find, and some online sellers are already listing boxes of 10 Twinkies for as much as $10,000 on auction websites such as eBay.  Well, there is really no reason to panic.  It is very likely that another company will purchase the Twinkie brand and continue to produce them.  In fact, it is already being rumored that a Mexican company may have the inside track.  But even though the Twinkie may survive, the failure of Hostess is yet another sign of how weak the U.S. economy has become.  Approximately 18,500 Hostess workers will be losing their jobs, and even if some of them are rehired by the company that takes over the Twinkie brand, the truth is that those workers will almost certainly be looking at greatly reduced pay and benefits.  Sadly, we are seeing this kind of thing happen all over America.  Large numbers of once thriving businesses are either shutting down or laying off workers.  Overall, the failure of Hostess is not that big of a deal for the U.S. economy.  But we may look back someday and remember Hostess as a symbol of the economic problems that were unleashed by the election of 2012.  Since November 6th, a wave of pessimism has swept over the economy and we are now seeing some of the worst economic numbers that we have seen in more than a year.  Many fear that we may have reached a tipping point and that things are only going to get worse from here.

Sadly, the reality is that Hostess is not the only iconic American company that is in a huge amount of trouble right now.  Sears just announced a loss of nearly 500 million dollars in the third quarter.  Sears has been bleeding money like this for a couple of years, and if they continue to do so it will just be a matter of time before Sears is headed for liquidation as well.

Can you imagine trying to explain the Sears catalog and Twinkies to future generations in a world where those things no longer exist?

Our world is changing at mind blowing speed, and the pace of change is only going to keep accelerating.

A few days after the election, I wrote an article about the huge number of layoff announcements that we saw after Barack Obama won.

Well, it has gotten even worse since then.  The following is a partial list of the layoffs and job losses that have been announced since November 6th…

Abbott Labs 700
Activision 30
Adventist Health 48
Airlines SAS 6000
AMD 400
American Cotton Growers 110
ArcelorMittal 20
American Independence Museum 4
Ameridose 790
American Airlines 4400 + 800 leaving voluntarily
American Coal 54
Atlantic Lottery Corporation 16
Assc Milk Producers 130
Aveo Oncology 45
ATI 172
Bankia 5000
Bechtel Power Corp 277
Bigpoint Games 47
Boston Scientific 1200
Brake Parts LLC 75
Brattleboro Retreat 31
Bristol Myers 500
Career Education 900 + Closing 23 Campuses
Cigna 1300
Citigroup 100
Commerzbank 6000
Consol Energy in W.V. 145
Covidien 595
Crouse Hospital Syracuse NY 70
Cummins 150
CVPH 27
DEP in Tallahassee FL 15
DuPont, Co. 64
Eagle-Tribune, Andover 21
Emanuel Medical Cente 24
Energizer Holdings 1500
Ericsson 1550
Exide Tech, Laureldale 150
City of Findlay, OH 39
First Energy 400
Gameforge Berlin 20
Gamesa Energy 92
GenOn Energy Inc 33
Glen Falls Hospital 29
Groupon 80
GT Advanced Tech 165
Harris’ Broadcast 17
Hawker Beechcraft 400 + Facilities closing
Hill Rom 200
Hills Holdings 300
HMX Group 567
Hostess 627
Iberia Airlines 4500
ICM of Colwich 25
ING 2350
Judson University 21
Juniper Networks 500
Kaiser Permanente 84
Kinetic Concepts 427
Kratos Defense Security 125
Lackawanna County PA 11
Lightyear Network Solutions 12+
Lonza 500
Majestic Star Casino/hotel 80
Major Wind Company 3000
Martha Stewart Living 70
Medtronic 1000
Mills Manufacturing NC 68
Momentive, Inc. 150
Monitor Group 235
Montco Behavioral Health/Dev 58
NBC 500
Nebraska Medical Center 38
Neovia Logistics Services 52
New Energy 40
Ormet 200
Panasonic 10000
PayPal 320
Penn Refrigeration 40
Penske Logistics 50
Pepsi 4000
Philips Electronics 218
Pierce Mfg 325
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne 100
Research in Motion 200
Rheem Manufacturing 50
Sentry Foods 70
Shaw’s Supermarket 700
Shawano foundry WI 90
Smith & Nephew 770
Smithfield Packing Co. 125
Solel Solar Systems 140
Southeastern Container 15
SpaceX 100
SRA Intl Inc 222
St. Jude Medical 300
Stryker 1170
Sulake 60
Sun Media 500
TE Connectivity 620
TECO Coal Corporation 90
Texas Instruments 1700
The Providence Journal Co 23
TMX Group Ltd. 100
Turbocare 220
Turkey Point Nuclear Plant 277
Oce North America, Inc. 135
Turbocare OCE 220
UBS 10000
US Cellular 980
UtahAmerican Energy Inc 102
Volvo Trucks Pulaski County 300
Wake Forest Baptist Medical 950
Welch Allyn 275
West Ridge Mine 102
Westinghouse 50
World Media Enterprises Inc 105
WPS Health Insurance 600
Wright Patterson AFB 115
Wyodak Coal Mine 11
Xerox 2500

Sadly, the list actually keeps going.  You can view the remainder of the list right here.

Even companies owned by Obama supporters are laying people off.  Just check out this excerpt from a report by CitizenLink

A corporation whose part owner gave $2 million to a group committed to re-electing President Obama announced this week that it will be forced to lay off more than 1,000 employees in lieu of the financial hardship imposed by the president’s signature health care law.

Overall, more than 100,000 job losses have been announced since the election.  It is almost as if the election was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Everyone in the business community that had been hoping for something different now realizes that no change is coming.

Meanwhile, Obama continues to pour on even more rules and regulations.  According to CNSNews.com, the Obama administration has posted a total of 6,125 regulations on its reguations.gov website during the past 90 days.  Our politicians are clueless and they simply don’t understand what they are doing to the business community.

But of course this goes for politicians from both sides.  For decades we have been consuming far more than we produce and spending far more money then we bring in, and most of our politicians seem to be under the delusion that this can continue indefinitely.

The other night my wife had me watch a documentary entitled “The Queen of Versailles” that followed the lives of time share mogul David Siegel and his wife Jackie.  I found it to be a perfect metaphor for what America is going through right now.  David Siegel built the greatest time share empire the world has ever seen on a mountain of easy money and cheap credit.  At the beginning of the movie, David and Jackie were living the high life and were constructing the largest house in America down in Florida.

Well, things dramatically changed when the financial crisis of 2008 struck.  Suddenly nobody wanted to lend to David’s company and the house of cards started to crumble.  But even though they were facing massive financial problems, Jackie found it incredibly difficult to adjust her lifestyle.  She just kept spending and spending and spending.

It would be easy to pass judgment on David and Jackie, but the truth is that they are a perfect example of what this entire country is going through.  Thousands of businesses are failing, our economic infrastructure is being gutted, millions of jobs are being shipped overseas, our financial system has become a gigantic casino and we keep piling even more mountains of debt on top of the mountains of debt that we already have.  We have been living way above our means for so long that we don’t even have any concept of what “normal” is anymore.

If you have not seen “The Queen of Versailles” yet, I encourage you to do so.  Don’t watch it to laugh at the downfall of David and Jackie Siegel.  They are just trying to make their way in this world like all of us are.  Rather, watch for parallels between their lives and what the United States is experiencing as a whole.  As I mentioned earlier, I found their story to be a perfect metaphor for what is happening to this entire country.  You can find the trailer for “The Queen of Versailles” right here.

As the economy falls apart, it is going to be really easy to point fingers at one another and blame one another.  But what will really be needed is more love and compassion.  A lot of workers at Hostess and a lot of other good companies just lost their jobs.  The unemployment epidemic in this country is going to get a lot worse.  These people are going to need our love and support.

In the end, we are all in this together.  The coming economic storm is not going to be averted, but we can choose how we respond to it.  Hopefully the crisis that is coming will bring out the best in many of us.

The Worst Economic Numbers In More Than A Year

With everything else that is going on in the world, a lot of people have failed to notice that we are seeing some of the worst economic numbers that we have seen in more than a year.  For example, it was announced on Thursday that initial claims for unemployment benefits have hit their highest level in a year and a half.  Hopefully this is just a temporary blip in the data, because initial unemployment claims tend to have a very strong correlation with the overall performance of the economy.  We also continue to see poverty statistics rise.  According to government statistics released earlier this month, the number of Americans living in poverty and the number of Americans on food stamps are both at all-time record highs.  Meanwhile, the Dow and the S&P 500 are both down more than 5 percent since the election and the U.S. government rolled up 22 billion dollars more debt in October 2012 than it did in October 2011.  The unfortunate truth is that things are not getting better.  The U.S. economy continues to become weaker and more unstable, and there are a whole lot of reasons to be very pessimistic about our economic situation as we move into the winter months.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the troubling economic numbers that have been released in recent days…

Initial Claims For Unemployment Benefits

The optimism that many analysts had about jobs is rapidly dissipating.  Over the past few weeks there has been a huge wave of companies announcing layoffs.  Just check out this article and this article.

But now we are actually seeing a significant rise in the number of American workers applying for unemployment benefits.  Initial claims for unemployment benefits soared to 439,000 for the week ending November 10th.  This is the highest level that we have seen in more than a year.  The last time initial claims were this high was April 2011.  It is interesting to note that the largest numbers of new unemployment claims came from the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Record Food Stamp Numbers

In dozens of articles I have carefully documented the steady rise of poverty in America and the steady decline of the middle class.

Even though our politicians insist that we are in the middle of an “economic recovery”, the number of Americans dependent on the government for their very survival just continues to keep going up.

A few days ago, the latest food stamp numbers were released.  It turns out that the number of Americans on food stamps increased by 420,947 from July to August.  That was the largest one month increase that we have seen in a year.  At this point, an all-time record 47.1 million Americans are enrolled in the food stamp program.  What would that look like if all of those people had to actually stand outside in bread lines like in the old days?

Stunning Stock Market Declines

A few days ago, I wrote about how many wealthy Americans are dumping stocks and other financial assets in anticipation of the looming “fiscal cliff”.

Well, if things get much worse we may soon have a “market crash” on our hands.

The Dow and the S&P 500 are both down by more than 5 percent since the election and many are wondering if things are about to get a whole lot worse.

Shares of Apple are down by 25 percent since late September.  Some analysts are actually using the term “panic selling” to describe what is happening to the stock.

Slowing Economic Activity

All over America there are indications that economic activity is starting to slow down.  Is Superstorm Sandy responsible for this, or are there other factors at work?

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, economic activity appears to be contracting in areas that were hit particularly hard by Superstorm Sandy…

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s general economic index was minus 5.2 this month after minus 6.2 in October. Readings of less than zero signal contraction in New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut.

Things appear to be slowing down in the mid-Atlantic region as well.  According to CNBC, manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region has contracted much faster than analysts were projecting…

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said its business activity index slumped to -10.7 from 5.7 the month before. The fall was much steeper than economists’ expectations for slippage to a reading of 2.0, according to a Reuters poll.

Any reading above zero indicates expansion in the region’s manufacturing. The survey covers factories in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware.

New Poverty Numbers

More American families are falling out of the middle class every single day.

New numbers that were just released by the U.S. Census Bureau show that the number of Americans living in poverty rose to a new all-time record of 49.7 million last year.

Once upon a time, people would have laughed at you if you suggested that someday 50 million Americans would be living in poverty.

But here we are.

Soaring Government Debt

Anyone that follows my columns on a regular basis knows that government debt is one of my major pet peeves.

Well, despite all of the “budget deals” that have been made between the Republicans and the Democrats, the amount of debt that we are accumulating just continues to balloon in size.

The federal budget deficit for October 2012 was 120 billion dollars.  That was a huge increase over the October 2011 federal budget deficit of 98 billion dollars.

How long can we possibly continue to do this?

Things In Europe Are Getting Worse Too

In case you had not noticed, the economic situation in Europe continues to unravel as well.  The eurozone is officially in a recession once again, and unemployment in the eurozone is at an all-time record high.  Violent protests and rioting happen on an almost daily basis over in Europe now.  The largest economy on the planet continues to implode right in front of our eyes, and this is another factor that will continue to drag down the U.S. economy.

So is there anyone out there that actually still believes that things are “getting better”?

The brief period of economic stability that we have been experiencing is rapidly coming to an end.  The “recovery” turned out to be extremely disappointing, and now the next major downturn is almost here.

The Federal Reserve Is Systematically Destroying Social Security And The Retirement Plans Of Millions Of Americans

Last week the mainstream media hailed QE3 as the “quick fix” that the U.S. economy desperately needs, but the truth is that the policies that the Federal Reserve is pursuing are going to be absolutely devastating for our senior citizens.  By keeping interest rates at exceptionally low levels, the Federal Reserve is absolutely crushing savers and is systematically destroying Social Security.  Meanwhile, the inflation that QE3 will cause is going to be absolutely crippling for the millions upon millions of retired Americans that are on a fixed income.  Sadly, most elderly Americans have no idea what the Federal Reserve is doing to their financial futures.  Most Americans that are approaching retirement age have not adequately saved for retirement, and the Social Security system that they are depending on is going to completely and totally collapse in the coming years.  Right now, approximately 56 million Americans are collecting Social Security benefits.  By 2035, that number is projected to grow to a whopping 91 million.  By law, the Social Security trust fund must be invested in U.S. government securities.  But thanks to the low interest rate policies of the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on those securities just keeps dropping and dropping.  The trustees of the Social Security system had projected that the Social Security trust fund would be completely gone by 2033, but because of the Fed policy of keeping interest rates exceptionally low for the foreseeable future it is now being projected by some analysts that Social Security will be bankrupt by 2023.  Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The collapse of Social Security is inevitable, and the foolish policies of the Federal Reserve are going to make that collapse happen much more rapidly.

The only way that the Social Security system is going to be able to stay solvent is for the Social Security trust fund to earn a healthy level of interest.

By law, all money deposited in the Social Security trust fund must be invested in U.S. government securities.  The following is from the official website of the Social Security Administration….

By law, income to the trust funds must be invested, on a daily basis, in securities guaranteed as to both principal and interest by the Federal government. All securities held by the trust funds are “special issues” of the United States Treasury. Such securities are available only to the trust funds.

In the past, the trust funds have held marketable Treasury securities, which are available to the general public. Unlike marketable securities, special issues can be redeemed at any time at face value. Marketable securities are subject to the forces of the open market and may suffer a loss, or enjoy a gain, if sold before maturity. Investment in special issues gives the trust funds the same flexibility as holding cash.

So in order for the Social Security Ponzi scheme to work, those investments in government securities need to produce healthy returns.

Unfortunately, the ultra-low interest rate policy of the Federal Reserve is making this impossible.

The average rate of interest earned by the Social Security trust fund has declined from 6.1 percent in January 2003 to 3.9 percent today, and it is going to continue to go even lower as long as the Fed continues to keep interest rates super low.

A recent article by Bruce Krasting detailed how this works.  Just check out the following example….

$135 billion of old bonds matured this year. This money was rolled over into new bonds with a yield of only 1.375%. The average yield on the maturing securities was 5.64%. The drop in yield on the new securities lowers SSA’s income by $5.7B annually. Over the fifteen year term of the investments, that comes to a lumpy $86 billion.

So what happens when the Social Security trust fund runs dry?

As Bruce Krasting also noted, all Social Security payments would immediately be cut by 25 percent…..

Anyone who is 55 or older should be worried about this. Based on current law, all SS benefit payments must be cut by (approximately) 25% when the TF is exhausted. This will affect 72 million people. The economic consequences will be severe.

In other words, it would be a complete and total nightmare.

Sadly, the truth is that the Social Security trust fund might not even make it into the next decade.  Most Social Security trust fund projections assume that there will be no recessions and that there will be a very healthy rate of growth for the U.S. economy over the next decade.

So what happens if we have another major recession or worse?

And most Americans know that something is up with Social Security.  According to a Gallup survey, 67 percent of all Americans believe that there will be a Social Security crisis within 10 years.

Part of the problem is that there are way too many people retiring and not nearly enough workers to support them.

Back in 1950, each retiree’s Social Security benefit was paid for by 16 U.S. workers.  But now things are much different.  According to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are now only 1.75 full-time private sector workers for each person that is receiving Social Security benefits in the United States.

And remember, the number of Americans drawing on Social Security will increase by another 35 million by the year 2035.

Another factor that is rapidly becoming a major problem is the growth of the Social Security disability program.

Since 2008, 3.6 million more Americans have been added to the rolls of the Social Security disability insurance program.

Today, more than 8.7 million Americans are collecting Social Security disability payments.

So how does this compare to the past?

Back in August 1967, there were approximately 65 workers for each American that was collecting Social Security disability payments.

Today, there are only 16.2 workers for each American that is collecting Social Security disability payments.

The Social Security Ponzi scheme is rapidly approaching a crisis point.

Sadly, the Federal Reserve has made it incredibly difficult to save for your own retirement.

Millions upon millions of Baby Boomers that diligently saved money for retirement are finding that their savings accounts are paying out next to nothing thanks to the ultra-low interest rate policies of the Federal Reserve.

The following is one example of how the low interest rate policies of the Fed have completely devastated the retirement plans of many elderly Americans….

You can understand the impact of the invisible tax on the elderly by watching the decline of interest income from $50,000 invested in a five-year Treasury obligation. As recently as 2000, this would have yielded about 6.15 percent and an interest income of $3,075 a year. Now the same obligation is yielding 0.7 percent and an interest income of $350 a year. This is the lowest yield on this maturity of Treasury debt since the Federal Reserve started keeping an index of the yields in 1953.

But it’s more than a low interest rate. It’s an income decline of nearly 89 percent in just 12 years.

And after you account for inflation, those that put money into savings accounts today are actually losing money.

Of course most Americans have not saved up much money for retirement anyway.  According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 46 percent of all American workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, and 29 percent of all American workers have less than $1,000 saved for retirement.

Overall, a study conducted by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research discovered that American workers are $6.6 trillion short of what they need to retire comfortably.

So needless to say, we have a major problem.

Baby Boomers are just starting to retire and the Social Security system is still solvent at the moment, and yet the number of elderly Americans that are experiencing financial problems is already soaring.

For example, between 1991 and 2007 the number of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 that filed for bankruptcy rose by a staggering 178 percent.

Also, at this point one out of every six elderly Americans is already living below the federal poverty line.

So how bad are things going to be when Social Security collapses?

That is frightening to think about.

In the short-term, millions upon millions of retired Americans that are living on fixed incomes are going to be absolutely crushed by the inflation that QE3 is going to cause.

Just like we saw with QE1 and QE2, a lot of the money from QE3 is going to end up in agricultural commodities and oil.  That means that retirees (and all the rest of us) are going to end up paying more for food at the supermarket and gasoline at the pump.

But those on fixed incomes are not going to see a corresponding increase in their incomes.  That means that their standards of living will go down.

Things are tough for retirees right now, but they are going to get a lot tougher.

Right now, there are somewhere around 40 million senior citizens.  By 2050 that number is projected to increase to 89 million.

So how will our society cope with more than twice as many senior citizens?

Sadly, we will likely never get to find out.

The truth is that our system is almost certainly going to totally collapse long before then.

We are rapidly approaching a financial crisis unlike anything we have ever seen before in U.S. history, and the foolish policies of the Federal Reserve just keep making things even worse.

More Than Half Of All Americans Are At Least Partially Dependent On The Government

A very large segment of the population has figured out that it can use voting as a tool to get more money and benefits from the government, and that is a very dangerous thing.  Once upon a time, the free market was the one that distributed nearly all the wealth in our system.  But now the federal government has become a giant deluded “Santa Claus” that distributes goodies to the American people far beyond its actual capacity to do so.  In fact, we are borrowing trillions of dollars that we do not have so that our politicians can continue to buy votes with handouts.  Look, we will always need a safety net.  We don’t want anyone in America starving to death or sleeping in the street.  However, our current system has gotten completely and totally out of control.  Today, there are nearly 80 different “means-tested welfare programs” operated by the federal government.  As I have written about previously, more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in those programs.  Sadly, that does not even count Social Security and Medicare.  Tens of millions of Americans are enrolled in each of those programs as well.  And when you add in more than 22 million government workers, you get one giant pile of people that are getting money or benefits from the government.  In fact, at this point more than half of all Americans are at least partially dependent on the government.

A recent Forbes article by Bill Wilson estimates that over 165 million Americans are government dependents to at least some degree….

New research from Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee Jeff Sessions (R-AL) reveals that this reality may already be here, with more than 107 million Americans on some form of means-tested government welfare.

Add to that 46 million seniors collecting Medicare (subtracting out about 10 million on Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, and other senior-eligible programs already included in Sessions’ means-tested chart) and 22 million government employees at the federal, state, and local level — and suddenly, over 165 million people, a clear majority of the 308 million Americans counted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010, are at least partially dependents of the state.

That is absolutely staggering.

So why is this happening?

Well, for one thing our economy is not producing enough good jobs.  Millions of our jobs have been shipped out of the country, and of the jobs that remain, only 24.6 percent of them are considered to be “good jobs” at this point.

So millions of families are really hurting.  In fact, 77 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck at least some of the time.

This week, Joe Biden declared that “the middle class is coming back”, but that was a giant lie.

The truth is that the middle class is being absolutely shredded.  More Americans fall out of the middle class every single day.  Right now there are more than 100 million Americans that are considered to be “poor” or “near poor”, and the number of Americans on food stamps has risen by more than 14 million since Barack Obama entered the White House.

No, the middle class is definitely not coming back.  Poverty is exploding all around us and every single day even more Americans become dependent on the government.

And that is how the social engineers like it.  They don’t want us to be strong and independent.  They want us to be weak and groveling and dependent on them.

So who is paying for all of this?

Well, it sure isn’t the wealthy.  They have become absolute masters at avoiding taxes.

And it sure isn’t the poor people.  Most of them don’t even pay any income taxes.

So who is paying for all of this?

Hard working middle class Americans are, and our children and our grandchildren are.

Both Democrats and Republicans see nothing wrong with stealing trillions of dollars from future generations so that they can shower their constituents with benefits that we simply cannot afford.

What we are doing to our children and our grandchildren is beyond criminal.  I am amazed that more people are not completely outraged by all of this.

Obama, Bush, Clinton and our Congress critters have showered the American people will trillions of dollars that have been ripped off from Americans that have not even been born yet.  They seem to think that it is really funny that they are going to stick them with the bill.

I find it absolutely revolting.

But very few of our politicians will even discuss seriously cutting back the benefits that we have promised to hand out.

Nobody wants to be the bad guy.

And more specifically, very few of our politicians are willing to risk their careers in order to do what they know is right.

We are becoming a society that is completely and totally addicted to government money and government benefits.

We expect the government to take care of us from the cradle to the grave.

In many ways, the government has actually become a god to millions upon millions of Americans.

And the social engineers like it that way.

They want the government to be as large and as powerful as possible.

In fact, they don’t even want us taking care of each other.

Earlier this year I wrote about how feeding the homeless is illegal in many major cities all over the United States.

Sadly, this trend has gotten even stronger since that time.

According to USA Today, more than 50 American cities have now passed “anti-camping or anti-food-sharing laws”….

Philadelphia recently banned outdoor feeding of people in city parks. Denver has begun enforcing a ban on eating and sleeping on property without permission. And this month, lawmakers in Ashland, Ore., will consider strengthening the town’s ban on camping and making noise in public.

And the list goes on: Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City and more than 50 other cities have previously adopted some kind of anti-camping or anti-food-sharing laws, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

So what are we supposed to do?

If it is illegal to help the homeless and it is illegal to be homeless, what is left?

The answer is obvious.

We are supposed to let the government take care of everything because the government is our super-powerful nanny that always knows what is best.

In the end, however, this system is going to collapse.  It is unsustainable by nature and the weight of our 16 trillion dollar national debt is absolutely going to crush us.

Millions of Americans realize that the system is failing, and that is why so many of them have started to prepare for the worst.

This even includes members of Congress.  For example, just check out the following excerpt from an article about U.S. Representative Roscoe Bartlett….

Deep in the West Virginia woods, in a small cabin powered by the sun and the wind, a bespectacled, white-haired man is giving a video tour of his basement, describing techniques for the long-term preservation of food in case of “an emergency.”

“We don’t really think of those today, because it’s so convenient to go to the supermarket,” he cautions. “But you know, you’re planning because the supermarket may not always be there.”

The electrical grid could fail tomorrow, he frequently warns. Food would disappear from the shelves. Water would no longer flow from the pipes. Money might become worthless. People could turn on each other, and millions would die.

Remember, this is a member of the U.S. Congress that is saying these things.

Any rational person can see that our current system is unsustainable by any definition.

Many of our politicians continue to insist that it can be “fixed” if you will just allow them to “tweak” it a bit.

Sadly, they are all lying to you.

A few small changes here and there is not going to change anything.

We need radical reconstructive surgery in this nation, and unfortunately that is not even being presented to the American people as an option in 2012.

We are just going to keep doing more of the same and we are going to keep expecting different results.

And that truly is insanity.

Broken Promises: Pensions All Over America Are Being Savagely Cut Or Are Vanishing Completely

How would you feel if you worked for a state or local government for 20 or 30 years only to have your pension slashed dramatically or taken away entirely?  Well, this exact scenario is playing out from coast to coast and in the years ahead millions of elderly Americans are going to be affected by broken promises and vanishing pensions.  In the old days, things were much different.  You would get hired by a big company or a government institution and you knew that the retirement benefits that they were promising you would be there when you retired in a few decades.  Unfortunately, we have now arrived at a time when government institutions and big companies have promised far more than they are able to deliver, and “pension reform” has become one of the hot button issues all over the nation.  Many Americans that have been basing their financial futures on their pensions are waking up one day and finding that their pensions are either gone or have been cut back dramatically.  According to Northwestern University Professor John Rauh, the latest estimate of the total amount of unfunded pension and healthcare obligations for state and local governments across the United States is 4.4 trillion dollars.  America is continually becoming a poorer nation and all of that money is simply not going to magically materialize somehow.  So where is that 4.4 trillion dollars going to come from?  Well, either pension benefits are going to have to be cut a lot more all over America or taxes will need to be raised dramatically.  Either way, we are all going to feel the pain of these broken promises.

There simply is not enough money out there to keep all of the pension commitments that have been made.  Something has got to give.  In the end, millions of elderly Americans will likely be plunged into poverty as pensions disappear.

Some local governments around the nation are already declaring bankruptcy and are either eliminating pensions or are cutting them very deeply.  Just check out what just happened in Central Falls, Rhode Island….

For years, city officials promised robust union contracts and pensions without raising revenue to pay for them. Last August, the math caught up with them. Central Falls was broke, its pension fund short $46 million. It declared bankruptcy.

“My daughters grew up here, went to school here. It’s all gone,” said Mike Geoffroy, a retired firefighter.

He said he could not make the payments on his house after his pension was cut by $1,100 a month.

When will the math catch up with the city where you are living?

For years and years most of our state and local politicians have been ignoring this problem.  But eventually a day comes when you simply cannot ignore it any longer.

Check out what Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward said about the situation in his city recently….

“When our annual pension liability is more than our yearly property tax revenues, we have to do something”

Keep in mind that taxpayers don’t get any new services for money spent on pensions.  It is money that goes straight into the pockets of retired workers.  State and local governments are desperately trying to pay retired workers what they are owed and fund ongoing government functions at the same time, but many have reached the breaking point.

All over the country, state and local governments are going broke.  The following is from a recent article by Duff McDonald….

Alabama’s Jefferson County has actually gone bankrupt. Stockton, California is all but ready to do the same. And all you have to do is look to Detroit—or any of the nearby auto towns named after a Buick model of one sort or another—and you see fiscal crisis playing out right now. Look in your own backyard—or at the potholes on your neighborhood roads—and you will likely find the same.

Things are so bad in Stockton, California that they are actually skipping debt payments….

The city of 290,000 that rode the wave of the housing boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s now finds itself littered with foreclosed homes, saddled with pension, health care and other obligations it can’t afford, and unable to pay its bills.

The City Council voted last month to suspend $2 million in bond payments and begin negotiations with bond holders, creditors and unions.

And did you notice what is being blamed for the financial problems in Stockton?

Pension and healthcare benefits.

Sadly, we are seeing pension nightmares erupt all over the nation right now.

For example, check out what is happening to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System and State Employees’ Retirement System in Pennsylvania….

PSERS had an accrued unfunded liability of nearly $26.5 billion, the amount of money the fund is short to cover existing retirement benefits. That hole is expected to grow to $43 billion by 2019. SERS is $12.5 billion in the red, and that shortfall is expected to climb to nearly $18 billion by 2018. Unless the stock market makes giant sustained gains, taxpayers will have to refill those funds.

That doesn’t sound good at all.

In California, the Orange County Employees Retirement System is estimated to have a 10 billion dollar unfunded pension liability.

How in the world can a single county be facing a 10 billion dollar hole?

This is madness.

The state of Illinois is facing an unfunded pension liability of more than 77 billion dollars.  Considering the fact that the state of Illinois is flat broke and on the verge of default, it is inevitable that a lot of those pension obligations will never be paid.

In fact, there are going to be a whole lot of broken promises all over the country.

Pension consultant Girard Miller told California’s Little Hoover Commission that state and local government bodies in the state of California have $325 billion in combined unfunded pension liabilities.

That comes to about $22,000 for every single working adult in the state of California.

So where is all of that money going to come from?

But at least most state and local government employees are still covered by pension plans, even if they are failing.

In the private sector, pension plans are vanishing at lightning speed.

According to the Boston College Center for Retirement Research, the percentage of workers in America covered by a traditional pension plan fell from 62 percent in 1983 to 17 percent in 2007.

That isn’t just a trend.

That is a tidal wave.

And many of the private pension plans that still exist are massively underfunded.  For example, Verizon’s pension plan is underfunded by 3.4 billion dollars.

So what should Americans do in light of all this?

Well, the number one thing to realize is that the pension plan you have been counting on could disappear at any time.

We live in an economic environment that is extremely unstable, and about the only thing you can count on in this environment is rapid and dramatic change.

Do not plan your financial future around a pension plan.  If you do, you are likely to be bitterly disappointed.

Americans that plan to retire in the coming years should do their best to try to fund their own retirements.

Unfortunately, most Americans are not putting away much of anything for retirement.  As I have written about previously, one study found that American workers are $6.6 trillion short of what they need to retire comfortably.

Ouch.

Over the next 20 years approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers will be retiring every single day.

A lot of them are going to be blindsided by empty pension funds and broken promises.

We are facing a retirement crisis of unprecedented magnitude, and there is not much hope in sight.

And if there is a major stock market crash, things are going to be much, much worse.

Most pension funds and retirement plans are heavily invested in the stock market.  If we were to see a major financial crisis like we saw back in 2008 it would be absolutely devastating.  Millions of Americans could see their retirement plans wiped out in short order.

Once again, please do not place your faith in the system.

If you do, you are likely to end up holding a bag of broken promises.

A gigantic tsunami of unfunded pension obligations is coming.  A lot of state and local governments are going to go broke.  A lot of promises are going to be broken.

If you hope to retire any time soon, you better plan on being able to take care of yourself.

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