Even Ben Stein Is Warning That An Economic Collapse Is Coming

He sure has come a long way since “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.  During a recent television segment for CBS, Ben Stein declared that “the tea leaves are ominous” and he warned that an economic collapse may be coming.  In particular, Ben Stein is deeply concerned about inflation.  During his recent appearance on CBS, Stein proclaimed that the Federal Reserve is “just shoving money out the door as fast as it can” and that this could have horrific consequences for the U.S. financial system.  Sadly, Ben Stein is exactly right on this point.  The Federal Reserve has already injected enough money into the financial system to create an inflationary disaster.  Fortunately most of this liquidity is still being held by the banks (this will be further explored below), but once all of that money starts getting released into the financial system it is going to unleash economic chaos.

In the video that you are about to watch, Ben Stein states that “when serious inflation hits, it hits everyone”.

And that is absolutely true.  Inflation is a hidden tax on ever single dollar that each one of us holds.  Nobody can cheat that hidden tax and nobody can escape from it.

You may have noticed that the price of gas is going up.

In fact, just the other day UPI reported that the price of gas at one station in the Washington D.C. area was up to 5 dollars a gallon.

Can it get much worse?

Well, actually yes it can.

Richard Hastings, a strategist at Global Hunter Securities, recently told CNBC that he believes that we could potentially see $6 gas at some point this summer.

Do you think that a lot of American families will rethink their summer vacations if that happens?

You betcha.

Perhaps Americans will just fly instead.

Well, that is rapidly becoming more expensive as well.  Just check out what one recent CNN article had to say about rising airfares….

Late Tuesday, Southwest Airlines raised all of its round-trip fares by $10. Delta (DAL, Fortune 500) initiated this latest round of price increases on Monday, and as of midday Wednesday American Airlines (AMR, Fortune 500), JetBlue (JBLU) and United Airlines (UAL) had matched it.

As Ben Stein also notes in the video below, food prices are soaring as well.  Rampant money printing by the Federal Reserve and serious crop problems all over the globe have created a “perfect storm” for agricultural commodities.  In the video, Stein sounds downright apocalyptic as he describes crop failures around the world….

But now, we are getting serious crop shortfalls in China – an enormously important agricultural producer and consumer. U.S. crop forecasts are also disappointing. There are huge problems in Australia, South America, and Russia. Corn, wheat, rice and other foodstuff prices are just going wild.

And you know what?

Ben Stein is right.

In a recent article about the global food crisis, I detailed some of the agricultural commodity price increases that we have seen….

*According to the World Bank, the global price of food has risen 36% over the past 12 months.

*The commodity price of wheat has approximately doubled since last summer.

*The commodity price of corn has also about doubled since last summer.

*The commodity price of soybeans is up about 50% since last June.

*The commodity price of orange juice has doubled since 2009.

But it isn’t just food and gas that are going up.  We are seeing inflation everywhere.  The value of virtually all “hard assets” is going up.

Investors are running to precious metals such as gold and silver in a desperate attempt to preserve their wealth.  Gold and silver have been absolutely skyrocketing.  The price of gold set another brand new all-time record high this week.  The price of silver hit a 31-year high today.

So why is this happening?

One of the biggest reasons for all of this is that the Federal Reserve has been flooding the system with new money.  In the video below, Ben Stein points to quantitative easing as the primary reason why we are seeing so much inflation….

But most important of all, the Fed is just shoving money out the door as fast as it can, creating piles of cash in banks.

The Federal Reserve had hoped that economic growth would be sparked by all of this new cash, but that is only happening to a minimal degree.

Instead, what Ben Stein believes all of this new money is going to bring about is a situation known as “stagflation”.

Do you remember the 1970s and the “misery index”?

Well, we seem to be headed for a repeat of those days.

In a previous article, I defined stagflation….

Stagflation exists when inflation and unemployment are both at high levels at the same time.

Up to this point, we have had high unemployment but relatively low levels of inflation.

But now we are going to get to enjoy high unemployment and high inflation at the same time.

Oh goody!

Video of Ben Stein’s recent appearance on CBS is posted below.  You can read a transcript of his remarks here.  It is amazing that a mainstream news outlet would allow this much truth to get out….

Look, the reality is that you cannot pump this much money into the financial system without there eventually being very serious consequences.

For decades the Federal Reserve has been systematically debasing the U.S. dollar, but what the Fed has been doing to the money supply over the past couple of years is absolutely unprecedented.  Just check out the chart below….

So why hasn’t all of this new cash caused chaos in the economy already?

Well, because most of it is still trapped in the financial system.  Banks have been reluctant to loan it out.  Instead, they seem content to keep most of it on reserve at the Fed.

But if all of this new money starts leaking out into the economy it is going to drive prices up.  When you have lots more money chasing roughly the same number of goods and services it is inevitable that inflation will result.

Robert Wenzel of EconomicPolicyJournal.com believes that more quantitative easing is not even necessary to turn the U.S. economy into a hyperinflationary nightmare.  In fact, Wenzel says that there are enough excess reserves at the Fed right now to turn us into another Zimbabwe….

With over $1.4 TRILLION in excess reserves, Bernanke never has to resort to QE style monetary operations ever again, to print money. If those excess reserves leak into the system, Bernanke has enough sitting there to make Zimbabwe look like a model of prudent money management. As per usual, Bernanke has most of the media and Fed watchers looking at the wrong card.

Forget about QE3, keep your eye on excess reserves. Excess reserves are funds that are not in the system bidding up prices, but when they enter the system by banks using them to make loans, have the potential to result in a multiple of their size, when they impact the money supply. Because of this potential for multiple size impact, excess reserve entering the economy are considered high-powered money.

We would have never even been in this position if we had never allowed the Federal Reserve to be created and had never gotten 14 trillion dollars in debt.  But now America has a debt problem that can never be solved under the current system.  We are locked into a debt spiral from which there is no escape.

Last year, the U.S. government spent more on interest on the national debt than on the following departments combined….

*The Department of Health and Human Services

*The Department of Energy

*The Department of Veterans Affairs

*The Department of Justice

*The Department of Homeland Security

*The Department of Agriculture

*The Treasury Department

*The Department of Labor

Ouch!

But right now the U.S. is still able to borrow tons of money at super low interest rates.

So what happens if interest rates go up?

It could potentially be catastrophic.

That is why the decision by S&P to downgrade its outlook on U.S. government debt was such a big thing the other day.  The U.S. still has a “AAA” rating, but S&P is warning that the AAA rating is in danger.

So what would it mean if the U.S. lost the AAA rating that it currently holds?

The Washington Post recently described it this way….

A credit rating downgrade for the United States would spell even more financial trouble for the U.S. government, hampering its ability to borrow money as investors demand higher yields to make up for the increased risk. That would cause its national debt to balloon further and increase the need to hike taxes or make even more painful cuts in spending.

But the U.S. government continues to borrow money like there is no tomorrow and Ben Bernanke and his friends at the Fed continue to recklessly print money.

As bad as things may seem for many of you right now, the truth is that what we are experiencing at the moment is a “false bubble of prosperity”.  Things are eventually going to get much, much worse.

Enjoy this time of economic peace and stability while you still can.  Our leaders have absolutely destroyed our economic future and we are going to want to have some good memories to hold on to while we are living through economic hell in the years ahead.

Good Economic Numbers? Don’t Be Fooled By The Financial Sugar High

The U.S. financial system is like a junkie that needs continually increasing amounts of “junk” to get the same “buzz”.  So what is the U.S. financial system addicted to?  It is addicted to money and debt.  For many years, whenever the Federal Reserve would lower interest rates or the U.S government would borrow and spend more money, the U.S. economy would respond positively.  But just like with any other kind of artificial stimulation, over time it has taken greater and greater amounts of debt and cheap money to get a response from our economic system.  So yes, the fact that the official unemployment rate went down 0.1%  last month is good news, but considering the massive amount of spending that the U.S. government is doing and considering the gigantic quantity of money that the Federal Reserve is injecting into the financial system, the truth is that the unemployment rate should be falling much faster than that.  So don’t be fooled by the good economic numbers and don’t be fooled by the financial “sugar rush”.  The U.S. government and the Federal Reserve have been pulling out all the stops to stimulate the economy, and the fact that all of their efforts are barely moving the unemployment rate at all is an indication of just how far our economic situation has degenerated.

Many in the mainstream media were extremely excited when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the U.S. unemployment rate declined to 8.8% in March.  U.S. stocks soared as investors enthusiastically welcomed the news.  But should we all really be jumping up and down over this?

The truth is that some other measures show that the unemployment situation in the United States is becoming worse.

According to Gallup, the number of Americans that are either unemployed or working part-time but desiring full-time work actually rose from 19.8 percent in February to 20.3 percent in March.

So let us not get too excited about the employment situation.  Yes, unemployment is not spinning wildly out of control at the moment and that is good news.

However, when you look at the larger picture things look rather grim.

What the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve have been doing is that they have been mortgaging our future big time for short-term economic gain.

This year alone, the U.S. government is going to run an all-time record budget deficit of approximately 1.6 trillion dollars.  By borrowing 1.6 trillion dollars that we do not have and spending it into the system, it does stimulate the economy.

There are some members of Congress that would like to implement substantial budget cuts, but most members of Congress fear doing too much budget cutting right now because it would “harm the economy”.

And you know what?  They are right – budget cuts would harm our economy in the short-term.

But continuing to pile up all of this debt is setting the stage for an absolute economic nightmare in the mid to long term.

We have lived far, far beyond our means for decades, and most of our politicians are acting like this can go forever.

But tell me, does anyone out there actually believe that we can keep expanding the national debt like this indefinitely?….

Yes, government spending does stimulate the economy.  The Keynesians are right about that.

However, by accumulating a national debt that is spinning wildly out of control, we have completely destroyed the economic future of this nation.

The Federal Reserve has been very busy trying to stimulate the U.S. economy as well.

Over the past couple of years, the Fed has been injecting massive amounts of money into the financial system.  The theory is that the financial system will loan this money out to the American people and that will stimulate the economy and create more jobs.

Well, that may very well be true to a certain extent in the short-term, but as I wrote about yesterday, in the long-term this is going to create a substantial amount of inflation.

The chart posted below cannot be emphasized enough.  It shows how the Fed has dramatically increased the size of the adjusted monetary base since mid-2008….

Yes, all of this new money will stimulate economic activity, but it is completely and totally ludicrous for Ben Bernanke to attempt to deny that this is also going to cause significant inflation.

So when taking a look at the economic numbers, it is absolutely critical to keep in mind that our “authorities” have pushed all the chips to the middle of the table in an all-out attempt to stimulate the economy in the short-term.

The small economic “sugar rush” that we are experiencing right now is all we have gotten out of it so far.

Sadly, this is about the best that the U.S. economy is going to do from now on.  Things really are not going to get much better than this.

Yes, unemployment numbers might come down a little more, but pretty soon inflation is going to really kick in and that is going to have a really negative impact on tens of millions of Americans.

First of all, when inflation really starts taking off it is going to be absolutely devastating for those on fixed incomes.  Many of them will be completely wiped out.

Secondly, those that do have jobs are going to find that their incomes are not nearly keeping up with inflation.

In fact, we are seeing this starting to happen already.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. workers in the private sector only saw their pay increase by 2.1% during 2010.

So did what we are paying for food and gas only go up 2.1% in 2010?

Of course not.

So are things getting better so far in 2011?

No.

One of the depressing things about the new numbers released by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was that wages for U.S. workers did not increase in March.

According to the BLS, the average U.S. worker earned $22.87 an hour during the month of March, which is exactly the same number we saw in February.

So inflation is going up and wages are staying flat.

That means that American family budgets are going to be squeezed even more.

In addition, the numbers from the BLS show that it is still incredibly difficult to get a job.  In fact, the average length of unemployment in the U.S. is now an all-time record 39 weeks.

So is anyone doing well right now?

Well, yes – as I have written about previously, those at the very top of the food chain are doing quite well these days.

According to USA Today, median CEO pay soared 27 percent during 2010.  For the year, median CEO pay was a stunning $9.0 million.

Wouldn’t you like to be making 9 million dollars a year?

According a recent report by CNN, the 25 highest-paid hedge fund managers in the United States combined to bring in an astounding $22.07 billion in income during 2010.

Wouldn’t you like to get just a small piece of that?

All of the measures that the government and the Federal Reserve are using to stimulate the economy are causing tremendous distortions in our financial system.

Wall Street is absolutely swimming in cash right now.  There are some people that are making obscene amounts of money.

But ultimately the party is going to end for all of us.

It has been incredibly foolish for the government and the Fed to go “all in” in a desperate attempt to boost short-term economic numbers.

Our long-term economic future is completely gone.  Our financial system is heading for a horrible collapse.  It is not a matter of “if” it will happen, but rather “when” it will happen.

You better buckle up and get ready.

Wal-Mart Says “Serious” Inflation Is Coming

Thank you Ben Bernanke for all the money printing.  Thanks to a massive injection of cash into the financial system by the Federal Reserve and other central banks, the price of almost every major commodity has skyrocketed over the past six months.  Now those price increases are starting to filter down to the retail level.  During a recent meeting with USA TODAY’s editorial board, Wal-Mart CEO Bill Simon said that rising inflation in the United States is “going to be serious” and that Wal-Mart is “seeing cost increases starting to come through at a pretty rapid rate.”  For many years Wal-Mart has been famous for their “low prices”, so for the head of Wal-Mart to publicly warn that much higher prices are coming is more than a little alarming.  There are millions of American families that are already drowning in debt, that can barely pay their mortgages and that are struggling to put food on the table for their families.  So what is going to happen to the U.S. economy when prices start rising substantially at places such as Wal-Mart?

But Wal-Mart is not the only major corporation that says that inflation is coming.  Hershey has just announced price increases of about 10 percent on their entire line of products.

So if you like chocolate you better start stocking up now.

Cocoa production is being seriously threatened by the political unrest in Africa right now.  The recent chaos in the Ivory Coast is certainly not good news for Hershey, but the truth is that all of the long-term trends indicate that prices for commodities such as cocoa, coffee and sugar are going to move up anyway.

In fact, Aaron Smith, the managing director of Superfund Financial, believes that coffee, sugar and cocoa will all be five to ten times more expensive by 2014 than they are today.

So if you are addicted to coffee or to sugar you might want to start making your plans accordingly.

But the truth is that inflation is not limited to just a few commodities.  Virtually every major agricultural commodity has soared in price over the past 6 months to a year.

So what is causing all of this?

Well, there are several factors which are major contributors.

First of all, overall global demand continues to increase.  The population of the world continues to grow, and as the economies of nations such as China and India develop, millions more people want to enjoy luxury items such as chocolate and coffee just like Americans do.

Secondly, all over the world central banks have been recklessly printing money in an attempt to stimulate their economies, but this is also going to end up causing tremendous inflation.

So how does that work?

Well, it is actually very simple.

For example, in the United States when there are more dollars chasing the same number of goods and services, what is going to happen?

Prices are going to rise of course.

And we are seeing this happen all over the world right now.

Thirdly, as the price of oil continues to rise, it is going to increase the cost of everything else.  The era of massive amounts of cheap food being transported around the world using massive quantities of cheap oil is rapidly coming to an end.

The following chart if from the Federal Reserve.  It shows that the price of oil is rapidly moving back to the level it was at prior to the financial crisis of 2008.  In fact, this chart is slightly out of date.  At last check, the price of oil was over $107 a barrel.  So what is it going to mean for our economy if we soon surpass the record that was set back in 2008?….

Fourthly, global instability is also going to cause prices to continue to rise.  Over the past year we have had really bizarre weather all over the globe, we have seen revolutions erupt all over Africa and the Middle East and the third largest economy in the world (Japan) just experienced the worst disaster that they have been through since World War 2 ended.

When things are unstable, economies don’t work as efficiently.  That means that less goods and services are produced.

But when there are less goods and services being chased by an increasing amount of money that tends to push prices up.

The truth is that inflation is here, and if the CEO of Wal-Mart is right, it is not going to go away any time soon.

In fact, many believe that the world is on the verge of another major economic crisis.

If you stop and think about it, every major region of the world is dealing with very serious problems right now.

Right now, the European debt crisis is worse than it ever has been before.  Did you notice that Standard & Poor’s just downgraded Portugal’s debt for the second time in a week?  Now Portuguese debt is rated BBB-, which is only one level above junk status.

That is a very alarming sign.

Asia is dealing with the Japanese crisis, nearly all of the countries in the Middle East are dealing with protests or full-blown revolutions, Africa is dealing with the war in Libya and quite a few revolutions of their own, and the U.S. is still deeply struggling with a whole host of economic problems.

Most Americans don’t realize just how precarious things are at the moment for the global economy.  The financial crash of 2008 did a lot of lasting damage, and the next wave of the financial crisis could potentially be even worse.  Unfortunately, the global financial system is more vulnerable than ever right now.

So what are the Federal Reserve and other central banks going to do the next time a major financial crisis happens?

They are going to print even larger quantities of money and they are going to give even larger bailouts to their friends of course.

The dollars that you have today are never going to be more valuable than they are right now.  Don’t wait too long to use them.  If you have a huge pile of dollars sitting in the bank your wealth is slowly but surely rotting away.

Very hard economic times are coming.  The inflation that the CEO of Wal-Mart is warning about is only the beginning.  Eventually we are going to see inflation in this country that is going to be absolutely mind blowing.

But don’t wait until the storm hits to start preparing.  We all have time now to prepare, so let us be wise and make the most of it.

Will Financial Problems In Portugal Cause The European Debt Crisis To Spiral Out Of Control?

Most Americans have no idea just how bad the financial problems over in Europe are right now.  The truth is that the entire European financial system is teetering on the brink of disaster.  Ireland and Greece have already received bailouts and Portugal, Spain, Italy, France and Belgium are all drowning in an ocean of unsustainable debt.  Sovereign credit ratings all over Europe have being slashed in recent months.  For example, a while back Moody’s Investors Service cut Ireland’s bond rating by five levels.  Up until now Europe has weathered all of this financial instability fairly well, but now huge new financial problems in Portugal threaten to send the European debt crisis spinning out of control.

The Prime Minister of Portugal, Jose Socrates, resigned on Wednesday after the major opposition parties banded together to vote down the austerity measures that he was requesting.  The package of budget cuts and tax increases was intended to get Portugal’s horrible debt crisis under control.  Prior to the vote, the prime minister warned that  he would no longer be able to run the country if the austerity package was not passed.

Now there are all kinds of questions about what is going to happen to Portugal.  At this point most financial authorities in Europe seem to be assuming that Portugal is going to need a bailout.

Today, Standard & Poor’s reduced the credit rating of long-term Portuguese government debt from “A-” to “BBB”.  Standard & Poor’s is also warning that the credit rating may be cut further if negotiations for a bailout do not go well.

Without a bailout, it seems almost certain that Portugal will default.

Interest rates on Portuguese government debt have risen to unsustainable levels.  The yield on 10-year Portuguese bonds hit 7.78% on Friday.  That was the highest it has been since Portugal joined the euro.

Authorities in Portugal are publicly saying that they simply cannot afford to pay that kind of interest.  Unfortunately for them, it appears that Portugal is going to be forced to issue more bonds by June at the very latest.

So how much would a bailout of Portugal cost?

Well, according to one estimate, it would probably be in the neighborhood of 70 billion euros.

That isn’t going to sink Europe.

However, the concern is that the crisis in Portugal could have a domino effect.

There is increasing worry in Europe that Portugal’s neighbor, Spain, could also need a bailout.  But a bailout of Spain would potentially be so large that it would cause a financial nightmare for Europe.

The following is how a recent article in the Wall Street Journal sized up the problem….

Portugal’s admission that it will probably need a financial bailout raises a question that will shape the outcome of the euro zone’s debt crisis: Is Spain next?

The cost of saving Spain, a €1.1 trillion ($1.56 trillion) economy, would dwarf previous bailouts and could test the financial strength of Europe as a whole.

The truth is that the rest of Europe simply does not have the kind of financial muscle necessary to continue putting together huge bailouts indefinitely.  If Spain does go down, it is going to put a massive amount of strain on the rest of the continent.

There are other financial problems simmering in Europe right now as well.

According to a recent Business Insider article, the financial problems in Ireland are also creating a lot of concern at the moment….

Ireland’s banks are likely to need another $39 billion in support, which would use up 80% of its current bailout funds.

Ireland is a financial basket case right about now.  Confidence in Irish debt is rapidly evaporating.  In fact, the yield on 10-year Irish bonds recently hit 10.12%.

Ouch!

But that is nothing compared to what Greece is being forced to pay.

The yield on 10-year Greek bonds recently reached an astounding 12.58%.

There are persistent rumors that Greece is going to need yet another bailout.  The truth is that Germany and the other European nations that are coming up with the cash for these bailouts are just pouring their money into financial black holes.

Nations like Greece and Ireland are just money pits at this point.

As I have written about previously, the financial collapse of Europe has basically become inevitable.  The EU can keep coming up with bailout plan after bailout plan, but they are only putting off the crash for a while.

Eventually a point will come when all of the balls simply cannot be kept up in the air anymore.

So what is going to happen once that point is reached?

Well, many believe that we could actually see the end of the euro and potentially even the break up of the European Union.

Of course top politicians in Europe will fight tooth and nail to keep that from happening, but the truth is that at some point we are going to see some incredibly challenging financial problems in Europe.  How the EU responds to the crisis is going to be extremely interesting to watch.

So many people talk about the death of the U.S. dollar, but the truth is that we could very easily see a financial collapse and a major currency crisis in Europe prior to the collapse of the dollar.  Europe is in really, really bad shape right now.

Of course it doesn’t help that the entire world is so incredibly unstable right now.  The disaster in Japan, the war in Libya, the revolutions across the Middle East and the surging price of oil all threaten to throw the global economy into turmoil.

As I discussed in a previous article, people need to start preparing for economic disaster.  The entire global financial system is coming apart.  The U.S. economy is crumbling, Europe is dealing with an unprecedented debt crisis and Japan has just been struck with the worst economic disaster that it has seen since World War 2.

Most Americans don’t pay much attention to what is going on in Portugal (or in the rest of Europe for that matter), but they should.  The world is more interconnected than ever, and if Europe experiences a financial meltdown it will have dramatic consequences for the United States as well.

The financial crash of 2008 swept the entire globe and virtually every nation on earth was deeply affected.  The next wave of the financial crisis is also going to be felt globally.

We live in one of the most interesting times in the history of the world.

Are you prepared for what is about to happen?

Shaken: 10 Economic Disasters Which Threaten To Rip World Financial Markets To Shreds

2011 has already been the most memorable year in ages and we haven’t even reached April yet.  Revolutions have swept the Middle East, an unprecedented earthquake and tsunami have hit Japan, civil war has erupted in Libya, the price of oil has been soaring and the entire globe is teetering on the brink of economic collapse.  It seems like almost everything that can be shaken is being shaken.  Unfortunately, it does not appear that things are going to settle down any time soon.  The Japanese economy has been dealt a critical blow, the European sovereign debt crisis could flare up again at any moment and the U.S. economy could potentially plunge into another recession by the end of the year.  The global economy and world financial markets were really struggling to recover even when things were relatively stable.  If all of this global instability gets even worse it could literally rip world financial markets apart.

Yes, things really are that bad.  The mainstream media has been really busy downplaying the economic impact of the disaster in Japan and the chaos in the Middle East, but the truth is that these events have huge implications for the global economy.  Today our world is more interconnected than ever, so economic pain in one area of the planet is going to have a significant effect on other areas of the globe.

The following are 10 economic disasters which could potentially rip world financial markets to shreds….

#1 War In Libya

Do you think that the “international community” would be intervening in Libya if they did not have a lot of oil?  If you actually believe that, you might want to review the last few decades of African history.  Millions upon millions of Africans have been slaughtered by incredibly repressive regimes and the “international community” did next to nothing about it.

But Libya is different.

Libya is the largest producer of oil in Africa.

Apparently the revolution in Libya was not going the way it was supposed to, so the U.S. and Europe are stepping in.

Moammar Gadhafi is vowing that this will be a “long war”, but the truth is that his forces don’t stand a chance against NATO.

Initially we were told that NATO would just be setting up a “no fly zone”, but there have already been reports of Libyan tank columns being assaulted and there has even been an air strike on Moammar Gadhafi’s personal compound in Tripoli.

So since when did a “no fly zone” include an attempt to kill a foreign head of state?

Let there be no mistake – the moment that the first Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched the United States declared war on Libya.

Already the Arab League, India, China and Russia have all objected to how this operation is being carried out and they are alarmed about the reports of civilian casualties.

Tensions around the globe are rising once again, and that is not a good thing for the world economy.

On a side note, does anyone recall anyone in the Obama administration even stopping for a moment to consider whether or not they should consult the U.S. Congress before starting another war?

The U.S. Constitution specifically requires the approval of the Congress before we go to war.

But very few people seem to care too much about what the U.S. Constitution says these days.

In any event, the flow of oil out of Libya is likely to be reduced for an extended period of time now, and that is not going to be good for a deeply struggling global economy.

#2 Revolutions In The Middle East

Protests just seem to keep spreading to more countries in the Middle East.  On Friday, five Syrian protesters were killed by government forces in the city of Daraa.  Subsequently, over the weekend thousands of protesters reportedly stormed government buildings in that city and set them on fire.

Things in the region just seem to get wilder and wilder.

Even in countries where the revolutions are supposed to be “over” there is still a lot of chaos.

Have you seen what has been going on in Egypt lately?

The truth is that all of North Africa and nearly the entire Middle East is aflame with revolutionary fervor.

About the only place where revolution has not broken out is in Saudi Arabia.  Of course it probably helps that the United States and Europe don’t really want a revolution in Saudi Arabia and the Saudis have a brutally effective secret police force.

In any event, as long as the chaos in the Middle East continues the price of oil is likely to remain very high, and that is not good news for the world economy.

#3 The Japanese Earthquake And Tsunami

Japan is the third largest economy in the world.  When a major disaster happens in that nation it has global implications.

The tsunami that just hit Japan was absolutely unprecedented.  Vast stretches of Japan have been more thoroughly destroyed than if they had been bombed by a foreign military power.  It really was a nation changing event.

The Japanese economy is going to be crippled for an extended period of time.  But it is not just Japan’s economy that has been deeply affected by this tragedy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the recent disaster in Japan has caused supply chain disruptions all over the globe….

A shortage of Japanese-built electronic parts will force GM to close a plant in Zaragoza, Spain, on Monday and cancel shifts at a factory in Eisenach, Germany, on Monday and Tuesday, the company said Friday.

Not only that, GM has also suspended all “nonessential” spending globally as it evaluates the impact of this crisis.

The truth is that there are a whole host of industries that rely on parts from Japan.  Supply chains all over the world are going to have to be changed as a result of this crisis.  There are going to be some shortages of certain classes of products.

Japan is a nation that imports and exports tremendous quantities of goods.  At least for a while both imports and exports will be significantly down, and that is not good news for a world economy that was already having a really hard time recovering from the recent economic downturn.

#4 The Japan Nuclear Crisis

Even if the worst case scenario does not play out, the reality is that the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is going to have a long lasting impact on the global economy.

Already, nuclear power projects all over the world are being rethought.  The nuclear power industry was really starting to gain some momentum in many areas of the globe, but now that has totally changed.

But of much greater concern is the potential effect that all of this radiation will have on the Japanese people.  Radiation from the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is now showing up in food and tap water in Japan as an article on the website of USA Today recently described….

The government halted shipments of spinach from one area and raw milk from another near the nuclear plant after tests found iodine exceeded safety limits. But the contamination spread to spinach in three other prefectures and to more vegetables — canola and chrysanthemum greens. Tokyo’s tap water, where iodine turned up Friday, now has cesium.

Hopefully the authorities in Japan will be able to get this situation under control before Tokyo is affected too much.  The truth is that Tokyo is one of the most economically important cities on the planet.

But right now there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Tokyo.  For example, one very large German real estate fund says that their holdings in Tokyo are now “impossible to value” and they have suspended all customer withdrawals from the fund.

Once again, let us hope that a worst case scenario does not happen.  But if we do get to the point where most of the population had to be evacuated from Tokyo for an extended period of time it would be absolutely devastating for the global economy.

#5 The Price Of Oil

Most people believe that the U.S. dollar is the currency of the world, but really it is oil.  Without oil, the global economy that we have constructed simply could not function.

That is why it was so alarming when the price of oil went above $100 a barrel earlier this year for the first time since 2008.  Virtually everyone agrees that if the price of oil stays high for an extended period of time it will have a highly negative impact on the world economy.

In particular, the U.S. economy is highly, highly dependent on cheap oil.  This country is really spread out and we transport goods and services over vast distances.  That is why the following facts are so alarming….

*The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States is now 75 cents higher than it was a year ago.

*In San Francisco, California, the average price of a gallon of gasoline is now $3.97.

*According to the Oil Price Information Service, U.S. drivers spent an average of $347 on gasoline during the month of February, which was 30 percent more than a year earlier.

*According to the U.S. Energy Department, the average U.S. household will spend approximately $700 more on gasoline in 2011 than it did during 2010.

#6 Food Inflation

Many people believe that the rapidly rising price of food has been a major factor in sparking the revolutions that we have seen in Africa and the Middle East.  When people cannot feed themselves or their families they tend to lose it.

According to the United Nations, the global price of food hit a new all-time high earlier this year, and the UN is expecting the price of food to continue to go up throughout the rest of this year.  Food supplies were already tight around the globe and this is certainly not going to help things.

The price of food has also been going up rapidly inside the United States.  Last month the price of food in the United States rose at the fastest rate in 36 years.

American families are really starting to feel their budgets stretched.  According to the U.S. Labor Department, the cost of living in the United States hit a brand new all-time record high in the month of February.

What this means is that U.S. families are going to have less discretionary income to spend at the stores and that is bad news for the world economy.

#7 The European Sovereign Debt Crisis

Several European governments have had their debt downgraded in the past several months.  Portugal, Spain, Greece and Ireland are all in big time trouble.  Several other European nations are not far behind them.

Right now Germany seems content to bail the “weak sisters” in Europe out, but if that changes at some point it is going to be an absolute nightmare for world financial markets.

#8 The Dying U.S. Dollar

Right now there is a lot of anxiety about the U.S. dollar.  Prior to the tsunami, Japan was one of the primary purchasers of U.S. government debt.  In fact, Japan was the second-largest foreign buyer of U.S. Treasuries last year.

But now as Japan rebuilds from this nightmare it is not going to have capital to invest overseas.  Someone else is going to have to step in and buy up all of the debt that the Japanese were buying.

Not only that, but big bond funds such as PIMCO have announced that they are stepping away from U.S. Treasuries at least for now.

So if Japan is not buying U.S. Treasuries and bond funds such as PIMCO are not buying U.S. Treasuries, then who is going to be buying them?

The U.S. government needs to borrow trillions of dollars this year alone to roll over existing debt and to finance new debt.  All of that borrowing has got to come from somewhere.

#9 The U.S. Housing Market

The U.S. housing market could potentially be on the verge of another major crisis.  Just consider the following facts….

*In February, U.S. housing starts experienced their largest decline in 27 years.

*Deutsche Bank is projecting that 48 percent of all U.S. mortgages could have negative equity by the end of 2011.

*Two years ago, the average U.S. homeowner that was being foreclosed upon had not made a mortgage payment in 11 months.  Today, the average U.S. homeowner that is being foreclosed upon has not made a mortgage payment in 17 months.

*In September 2008, 33 percent of Americans knew someone who had been foreclosed upon or who was facing the threat of foreclosure.  Today that number has risen to 48 percent.

#10 The Derivatives Bubble

Most Americans do not even understand what derivatives are, but the truth is that they are one of the biggest threats to our financial system.  Some experts estimate that the worldwide derivatives bubble is somewhere in the neighborhood of a quadrillion dollars.  This bubble could burst at any time.  Right now we are watching the greatest financial casino in the history of the globe spin around and around and around and everyone is hoping that at some point it doesn’t stop.  Today, most money on Wall Street is not made by investing in good business ideas.  Rather, most money on Wall Street is now made by making shrewd bets.  Unfortunately, at some point the casino is going to come crashing down and the game will be over.

Most people simply do not realize how fragile the global economy is at this point.

The financial crash of 2008 was a devastating blow.  The next wave of the economic crisis could be even worse.

So what will the rest of 2011 bring?

Well, nobody knows for sure, but a lot of experts are not optimistic.

David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Gluskin Sheff and Associates, is warning that the second half of the year could be very rough for the global economy….

“A sharp slowing in global GDP in the second half of the year cannot be ruled out.”

Let us hope that the world economy can hold together and that we can get through the rest of 2011 okay.  The last thing we need is a repeat of 2008.  The world could use some peace and some time to recover.

But unfortunately, we live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable.  With the way that the world has been lately, perhaps we should all just start to expect the unexpected.

But world financial markets do not respond well to instability and unpredictability.  In fact, investors tend to start fleeing to safety at the first signs of danger these days.

Most Americans simply have no idea how vulnerable the world financial system is at this point.  Nothing really got “fixed” after 2008.  If anything, global financial markets are even more fragile than they were back then.

So what do all of you think about the state of the global economy?  Please feel free to leave a comment with your opinion below….

The G-7 Forex Intervention Is A Perfect Example Of How Manipulated The Global Currency Market Really Is

What do governments and central banks do when they don’t like what is happening in the financial markets?  They directly intervene and they manipulate the financial markets of course.  On Friday, the central banks of the G-7 acted in concert to drive down the value of the surging yen.  So why did they do this?  Well, the fear was that a rising yen would hurt Japanese exports at a time when the economy of Japan needs all of the help that it can get.  So, as central banks have been doing with increasing frequency, they directly intervened in the Forex market in order to bring about the result that they desired.  Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.  The truth is that foreign governments, central banks and large financial institutions are constantly manipulating the Forex, precious metals and stock markets all over the globe.  You see, in today’s global economy the “stakes are so high” that the free market cannot be trusted.

The reality of the matter is that none of the financial markets are really “free markets” anymore.  Not that they are completely rigged, but to say that they are very highly manipulated would not be a stretch.

At least this time the manipulation was made public.  Of course it would have been really hard to hide the fact that all G-7 central banks intervened in the Forex on the same day.

The last time there was such a coordinated intervention in the global currency market was back in 2000 when central banks intervened to boost the struggling euro.

But the truth is that individual central banks attempt to manipulate the Forex all the time.

Some of these interventions become public.  In September 2010, a bold 12 billion dollar move by the Bank of Japan to push down the value of the yen made headlines around the globe but had only limited success.

Another example of this from last year was when the Swiss National Bank experienced losses equivalent to about 15 billion dollars trying to stop the rapid rise of the Swiss franc.

Many nations around the world have become extremely sensitive to currency movements.

In particular, there are several Asian nations that are known to be constant currency manipulators.  For example, Singapore is very well known for intervening in the foreign exchange market in order to benefit exporters.

And that is what this most recent intervention on behalf of the yen was all about.  It was about making Japanese exports cheaper.

But who is going to say no to Japan right now?  It is believed that Japan asked the G-7 to do this, and so they did.

Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda told the media the following about this massive intervention in the marketplace by the G-7….

“Given yen moves after the tragic events that hit Japan, the United States, Britain, Canada and the European Central Bank have agreed with Japan to jointly intervene in the currency market.”

So isn’t the Forex supposed to be a free market?

If you still believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

According to Kathleen Brooks, the research director at a major Forex trading firm, it looks like there is a certain level that global authorities simply will not allow the yen to rise to….

“It looks as though global authorities are willing to pull out all of the stops to defend the 80.00 level in dollar/yen.”

The following is the full statement released by the G-7 defending their currency intervention….

Statement of G-7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors

March 18, 2011

We, the G-7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, discussed the recent dramatic events in Japan and were briefed by our Japanese colleagues on the current situation and the economic and financial response put in place by the authorities.

We express our solidarity with the Japanese people in these difficult times, our readiness to provide any needed cooperation and our confidence in the resilience of the Japanese economy and financial sector.

In response to recent movements in the exchange rate of the yen associated with the tragic events in Japan, and at the request of the Japanese authorities, the authorities of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Central Bank will join with Japan, on March 18, 2011, in concerted intervention in exchange markets. As we have long stated, excess volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates have adverse implications for economic and financial stability. We will monitor exchange markets closely and will cooperate as appropriate.

But it is not just foreign governments and central banks that manipulate financial markets.

If you want to try to make money on the Forex, you had really better know what you are doing, because most “little fish” get swallowed up and spit out.

A number of years ago I actually invested in the Forex and I rapidly learned that it is not a “clean game”.  I discovered that there are industry insiders that openly confess that several of the “big fish” in the industry brazenly “stop hunt” and regularly trade against the positions of their clients.

Not that stock markets around the globe are much better.  It would take thousands of pages just to document the well known cases of stock manipulation and insider trading.

And don’t get me started on the precious metals markets.  As I have written about previously, very compelling evidence of manipulation in those markets has been handed to the U.S. government and they have essentially done next to nothing with that evidence.

Not that people don’t make money in the financial markets.  Some people make a ton of money.  But those people are experts and they know how to survive in a “dirty game”.

If you are an amateur, you really need to think twice before diving too deeply into the financial markets.  If you think that you can jump into the Forex or the U.S. stock market and “get rich quick” you are in for a rude awakening.

The financial markets have become a game that is designed to funnel money to the “sharks” and to the “big boys”.  Once you put your money into the game, the odds are that “the house” is going to win.

For those that still do believe that the financial markets are a good way to build wealth, at least be prudent enough to get some sound financial advice.  There is no shame in having a financial professional invest your money for you.

But it is no guarantee of success either.  The truth is that millions of Americans have experienced a lot of pain in the financial markets over the last few years.

As the global economy becomes even more unstable, the manipulation of the financial markets by governments and by central banks is going to become even more dramatic.

As financial markets around the world crash and rise and crash again a whole lot of people are going to be wiped out financially.

You don’t have to be one of them.

Global Financial Markets Plunge As The World Watches Japan Descend Into A Nuclear Nightmare

Global financial markets are in turmoil as the situation in Japan continues to deteriorate.  Stock markets are plunging all over the world as investors flock to investments that are considered to be safer.  The 9.0 earthquake and the unprecedented tsunami in Japan would have been more than enough to spook investors and unleash chaos on world financial markets, but now the unfolding nightmare at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility is really starting to cause panic.  Right now there is a mass exodus out of the city of Tokyo.  But not everyone can leave the city.  There are over 30 million people living in and around Tokyo.  So where in the world could you possibly put 30 million refugees?  Sadly, the truth is that millions of Japanese are going to stay in Tokyo no matter how high the radiation gets.  Let us hope that Japanese authorities can get the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility under control, but the fact that they have resorted to dropping water from helicopters and shooting water cannons at these nuclear reactors is not comforting.

World financial markets are certainly not expressing a lot of confidence right now.  This week alone, $300 billion in U.S. stock values have been wiped out.  The Dow Jones industrial average lost about 2 percent of its total value on Wednesday.  The Nikkei 225 stock index has lost about 10 percent of its total value since the beginning of this crisis.  At one point it was down more than 16 percent, but a gigantic monetary injection from the Bank of Japan has helped to stabilize things at least for now.  There are also some that believe that the Japanese government is now directly buying up stocks to keep them from falling even further.

Stock markets across Europe have been plunging as well.  An article posted on the USA Today website described some of the carnage on Wednesday….

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed down 97.05 points, or 1.7% at 5,598.23 while France’s CAC-40 fell 84.29 points, or 2.2%, to 3,696.56. Germany’s DAX ended 133.82 points, or 2%, lower at 6,513.84.

The financial ripples from this crisis are going to be felt for a long, long time.

In order to rebuild Japan, the Japanese government is somehow going to have to borrow massive amounts of money.  But the Japanese national debt was already projected to reach 228 percent of GDP this year.

The Japanese government has become an incredibly bad credit risk, but lowering their credit rating right now would seem to be in very bad taste.  So far, all three major credit rating agencies are taking a “wait and see” approach when it comes to Japan.

Unfortunately, the crisis in Japan is far from over.

The situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility just seems to grow more dire with each passing day.  Right now, the primary concern is the 40 years of spent fuel rods that are stored throughout the complex.

Ed Lyman, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, recently explained why the pools that store the spent fuel rods are the biggest problem at this point….

“For the time being, the greatest concern is the spent fuel pools because there is a clear pathway for release of radioactivity from the pools into the environment.”

The phrase “spent fuel rods” may make it sound like they should no longer be a threat, but the truth is that these fuel rods remain extremely hot and extremely radioactive for years after they are done being used.  For some reason, someone thought that it would be a good idea to store these spent fuel rods in huge pools of water near the top of each of the nuclear reactor buildings at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex.

These spent fuel rod pools are not housed in the same kind of containment vessels that the nuclear reactors are.  Therefore there is a much greater danger that radiation from these spent fuel rods could be released into the surrounding environment.

A recent article by Paul Joseph Watson did a great job of explaining just how big of a problem these spent fuel rods represent….

The Fukushima Daiichi plant has seven pools dedicated to spent fuel rods. These are located at the top of six reactor buildings – or were until explosions and fires ravaged the plant. On the ground level there is a common pool in a separate building that was critically damaged by the tsunami. Each reactor building pool holds 3,450 fuel rod assemblies and the common pool holds 6,291 fuel rod assemblies. Each assembly holds sixty-three fuel rods. In short, the Fukushima Daiichi plant contains over 600,000 spent fuel rods – a massive amount of radiation that will soon be released into the atmosphere.

Each of these 600,000 spent fuel rods is a potential “dirty bomb”.

Are you starting to grasp just how serious this all is?

It is absolutely critical that all of these spent fuel rods remain submerged in water.

If the water drops in the spent fuel pools there will be nothing to keep the spent fuel rods cool and they will start to degrade very, very quickly.

Unfortunately, things don’t look good right now.  U.S. authorities today expressed their belief that the spent fuel rods in unit 4 are now exposed and that a great deal of radiation is being released.  In fact, Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, stated during Congressional testimony today that he believes that an extremely high level of radiation is being released by exposed spent fuel rods at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility at this point….

We believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.

It would be hard to understate the courage of those that are working inside the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility right now. They all likely realize that they are all going to die very quickly. They are laying down their lives in an effort to save their countrymen. According to a recent report from CBS News these workers say that they are not afraid to die….

Although communication with the workers inside the nuclear plant is nearly impossible, a CBS News consultant spoke to a Japanese official who made contact with one of the workers inside the control center.

The official said that his friend told him that he was not afraid to die, that that was his job.

Would all of us respond the same way?

Even the media that are reporting on this disaster in Japan are starting to be affected by this radiation.  Lester Holt revealed this morning that his entire crew had tested positive for radiation after returning from an assignment.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is acting as if all of this stuff going on in Japan is no big deal. In fact, as Keith Koffler recently observed, Obama seems to be really enjoying himself in the midst of this crisis….

This morning, as Japan’s nuclear crisis enters a potentially catastrophic phase, we are told that Obama is videotaping his NCAA tournament picks and that we’ll be able to tune into ESPN Wednesday to find out who he likes.

Saturday, he made his 61st outing to the golf course as president, and got back to the White House with just enough time for a quick shower before heading out to party with Washington’s elite journalists at the annual Gridiron Dinner.

If you are curious about Obama’s picks for the NCAA tourney, they are posted on the official White House website.

This weekend, the Obamas are headed down to Brazil. According to an article in Forbes, the Obama plan to do a good bit of sightseeing while they are there….

The Obama family will also take in the sights in Rio. A trip to Corcovado mountain, where the Christ the Redeemer statue stands (France gave us Lady Liberty, gave Brazil Jesus) is supposedly on the itinerary. What trip to Rio would be complete without it?

Isn’t it great to see Obama acting like a true leader in the midst of one of the greatest moments of crisis that the world has seen since World War 2?

What in the world is Obama possibly thinking?

One thing about a major crisis is that it reveals the true character of those affected by it.  Many are responding to this crisis in Japan with great acts of courage and heroism.

Others are not rising to the occasion.

Let us just hope and pray that the Japanese figure out a way to get the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex under control.  If a “worst case scenario” happens we could soon be facing an unprecedented nuclear nightmare.

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