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Broke-Ass America

Contributed by Chriss Street.

Broke-ass is an urban slang term for someone who either has no money or is in debt beyond their means. This used to be a term for inner city ghetto dwellers and folks “Living in a Van Down by the River.” But since 2008, 2.2 million net jobs have been lost among the prime American working demographic of 25-54 year olds, even as their numbers grew by over 3 million.

A Google search of “broke-ass” generates 33,900,000 hits. There are broke-ass brides, dads, home, gourmet, bizness, and thousands more. Young people who thought they would scrimp by until they “moved up” in a career, now expect to never have a decent life and are trying to adapt to their new reality. Since 2008, America seems to have failed many Americans.

The United States was founded through a revolution against the colonial tyranny of the richest and most powerful nation on earth. The revolutionaries triumphed because they authentically stood for liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire economics; virtues their British imperial elites sought to deny them. In the 1920s, the American Communist Party in frustration referred to this unique lack of class distinction as “American Exceptionalism” to explain why the mentality of American working class was not ripe enough to rise up and violently overthrow the factory owners.

In the most recent Rasmussen Poll, 63% of employed adults still consider themselves middle class, 21% self-identify as upper middle class, while only just 3% view themselves as wealthy and 8% regard themselves as the working poor. These numbers have remained fairly stable for the last 30 years.

What has not remained stable is the percentage of “employed adults” in America. The labor participation rate, the measure of the number of people working or looking for a job, has declined for each of the last four years from 66% to 63% and now stands at the lowest rate since Jimmy Carter was President in 1979. The decline in this statistic is virtually the mirror image of the historic percentage gains in the labor force participation from 1980 to 1988.

Last month’s decline was extraordinarily brutal as job growth was cut in half to only 88,000, while 496,000 workers gave up looking for work and dropped out of the labor force. Although media reported unemployment figure declined slightly to 7.6%; the total unemployed that includes those who want full time work but can only find part-time employment, stands at a Great Depression level of 13.8%. For those Americans lucky enough to have a job, one in four is working for $10 an hour or less.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately one out of every six Americans is living in poverty and over 146 million are either “poor” or “low income”. Nearly 20% of all children in the United States currently live in poverty and approximately 57% live in homes that are either considered to be either “low income” or impoverished. More than a third of children in the U.S. live in a home without a father and families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37%. There are over a million public school students in the U.S. that are homeless.

The federal government responded to the broke-ass America crisis by annually increasing deficit spending by $800 billion and increasing taxes by $400 billion. About $100 billion a year is being spent increasing the number of Americans enrolled in at least one federal welfare program to 100 million.

No one is exactly sure where Congress has been “investing” the other $700 billion per year, but accountants tell us that every American’s share of the national debt has risen from $31,847 to $54,140. Maybe over the next four years if jobs keep disappearing and debt keeps rising, we might all be broke-ass Americans living in a van down by the river. Contributed by Chriss Street.

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The U.S. Economy Is Now Dangerously Detached From Reality

by Brandon Smith from Alt-Market

Recently I was asked to give a presentation on the current state of the global economy to a local group of concerned citizens here in Northwest Montana.  I was happy to oblige but when composing my bullet points I realized that, in truth, there were no legitimate economic numbers to examine anymore.  You see, financial analysts have traditionally used multiple indicators of employment, profit, savings, credit, supply, and demand in their efforts to divine the often obscured facts of our financial system.  The problem is, nearly every index we used in the past, every measure of capital flow and industry, is absolutely useless today.

We now live in an entirely fabricated fiscal environment.  Every aspect of it is filtered, muddled, molded, and manipulated before our eyes ever get to study the stats.  The metaphor may be overused, but our economic system has become an absolute “matrix”.  All that we see and hear has been homogenized and all truth has been sterilized away.  There is nothing to investigate anymore.  It is like awaking in the middle of a vast and hallucinatory live action theater production, complete with performers, props, and sound effects, all designed to confuse us and do us harm.  In the end, trying to make sense of the illusion is a waste of time.  All we can do is look for the exits…

There is some tangible reality out there, but it is difficult to find, and there are few if any mainstream numbers to verify.  One has to remember always that the fundamental world of money and trade revolves around real people and real circumstances.  No matter how corrupt our economic system is, as long as there are human beings, there will always be supply and demand that cannot be hidden.  We have to look past the “official numbers” and look at the roots of trade.  Where has demand fallen?  Where has supply diminished?  Where are the tangible goods and needs and how have they changed?

Let’s first start with the mainstream version of our system, looking at each aspect of the economy that no longer represents the truth of our situation…

Employment, Savings, And Debt

Much of this information is old news to those of us in the Liberty Movement, who tracked the progress of the global collapse long before the general public even knew of its existence.  However, it is useful to take a step back and look at the basic picture every once in a while.

According to numbers issued by the Department of Labor, weekly unemployment reports have dropped to a five year low, and the overall employment rate is holding at 7.9%.  This would seem to be a vast improvement over the dreadful bloodletting in the system only a few years ago.  Has the private Federal Reserve and the Obama Administration really done it?  Have they turned back the tide on the greatest fiscal crisis the U.S. has seen since the Depression?

No.  They haven’t.

They have only changed how the data is disseminated to the public. In order to understand how the employment statistics con is being engineered, it is important to understand the difference between “Adjusted” and “Unadjusted” numbers.

Labor Department data is “seasonally adjusted”, using a series of statistical assumptions including something called “Trend Cycle Analysis”.  Trend Cycle Analysis is, basically, a sham, but a sham put together in a very complex and confusing manner.  If you ask a mainstream economist what it is, you’ll likely get a three hour long dissertation filled with financial babble and very little concrete explanation.  So let me break it down as simply as I can…

Imagine that you are going to estimate how much profit you plan to make in a particular month, but you don’t just consider your current pay rate and pop it into a calculator; you also throw in the possibility of a few pay raises, an inheritance from a grandma who might kick the bucket, and, your exaggerated expectations of the entire year’s profit on top of that.  You may also take into account future bad weather, a mugging, a nuclear war….whatever.  All hypothetical situations not based in reality.  Basically, you decide that a particular trend in your income is inevitable, then, mold your statistical analysis around that assumption.

When your real profit numbers come in (the unadjusted numbers) and they do not meet your expectations, you simply change them according to what you believe SHOULD have happened.  If you insist that your profits are going to go up for the year, and they go down for a couple months instead, you change the variables you use to calculate the statistical average so that the results match your expectations, assuming that it will all balance out in the end.

Now, this sounds utterly insane for the common person out there trying to make a living.  If you ran your household this way, without accepting the cold hard unadjusted numbers in front of you, you’d find yourself broke and on the street in no time.  Unfortunately this is EXACTLY how our government handles most financial data; by coming to a final conclusion before hand, and then forcing the numbers to fit that conclusion.

This is why in February of 2013, “adjusted” first week unemployment rate was reported at 366,000 – a 5000 person drop from the week before.  A seeming improvement in the trend.  But, unadjusted numbers came in at 386,176 – a 16,000 person spike from the week before.  When one examines real unemployment numbers, he finds that the divergence between the adjusted and unadjusted statistics is growing larger with each passing quarter.  That is to say, the contradiction is becoming so blatant between the hard numbers and the Labor Department’s fantasy numbers that one must question whether or not the government is lying to us outright about the state of the economy (hint – they are lying).

These same methods are used by the government to calculate progress in the housing market, disposable income, etc.

The claim of “recovery” in the jobs market simply doesn’t jive with other indicators, like 2012 Christmas retail, which had the worst showing since the crash in 2008 (and these are still mainstream numbers!):

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/12/26/us-holiday-retail-sales-growth-weak…

Average household savings continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel, indicating that the public is not spending or withholding cash.  They are simply broke:

And the overall GDP of the U.S. contracted in the fourth quarter of 2012 for the first time in three years (again, according to official numbers, meaning the reality is much worse):

http://money.cnn.com/2013/01/30/news/economy/gdp-report/index.html

The downturn in consumption and industry also seems to be supported by the Baltic Dry Index, a measure of global shipping and rates.  The BDI has fallen to near historic lows THREE TIMES in the past year, which to my knowledge, has never happened before.  In the past, the BDI has been a strong prophetic indicator of future market volatility.  Usually, around a year after a severe decline in the index, a dangerous economic event takes place.  The BDI made its first sharp drop to all time lows at the end of January 2012, exactly a year ago.

U.S. household debt was recently reported to have fallen to a 29 year low, but the ratio used by the Federal Reserve applies a statistic for disposable income that is derived from the Trend Cycle boondoggle method.  While markets cheer, the truth is, the only reason household debt obligations have fallen at all is because bank lending and credit issuance remains frozen.  Consumer debt falls when there is no money to borrow.  In fact, the Federal Reserve actually pays large banks NOT to lend to the public; an activity which was exposed by Dennis Kucinich in 2009 on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  An activity that continued through 2012:

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/31/the-fed-should-stop-paying-banks-not-to-lend/

Keep in mind, one of the primary arguments the Federal Reserve used when promoting the bailout concept was that it would “free up credit markets” so that lending could pick up again and fuel a recovery, and yet, at the same time, they were paying banks to NOT lend.

Meanwhile, the supposed job recovery has produced an astonishing increase in welfare recipients in the U.S., including a record 46 million Americans on foodstamps (approximately 15% of our population):

http://www.nbcnews.com/business/report-15-americans-food-stamps-980690

If we are to apply any “trend” to our calculations on overall economic health, then we should include the extreme level of government handouts, and poverty levels which are now at all time highs.  The facts are undeniable; the number of people who have much less than they did in 2008 has grown.  How then could the U.S. be considered “in recovery”?

National Debt And The Fiat Lie

With the Dow Index hovering near highs of 14,000 our system truly looks to be on a rocket ship to pre-2008 money market bliss.  In a mere five years we have returned to equity spikes that stagger the mind and the wallet.  At least, that’s how it all appears…

What needs to be taken into account, though, is the amount of fiat money being created by the Federal Reserve, and how much of that printed pixie dust currency is fueling our magical flight to Neverland.  Since 2008, our official national debt has increased from $10 trillion to $16.4 trillion, and some estimate $17 trillion to $18 trillion by the end of 2013 (unless, of course, a collapse occurs).  Which means our national debt, which took decades to reach the $10 trillion mark, will have nearly doubled in only six years!

So, what has a doubling of our national debt in such a short span of time bought us?  Well, credit markets remain frozen, property markets remain stagnant, poverty is at historic levels, welfare recipients are at epic highs, and consumer activity and GDP is back at 2008 lows.  Where did all that printed money go?  Where was it spent?  To answer that question, we only need to find what area of the economy has seen the most positive (or fantastical) activity.  What sector is seeing a massive boost while the rest tumbles?

I suggest that a large portion of QE1 through QE3 has gone to prop up the stock market, and nothing else.  I suggest that American taxpayers are fronting the bill for the equities bonanza we see today.  I suggest that the Dow is being used as a Red Herring to distract the populous for as long as possible while real assets are being snapped up and hoarded by international banks and foreign entities.  I suggest that we are being leached dry and that the parasites are almost ready to move on…

When will it all end?  Perhaps sooner than many people think.  The decision by D.C. to delay talks on the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” until March may not be coincidence.  Extensive cuts in federal spending are absolutely necessary and cannot be dismissed forever, but, because the last vestiges of our system that still operate do so through government money, such cuts will cause immediate damage to the economy, including possible default and dollar devaluation.  Refusal to make cuts will result in credit downgrades, currency inflation, and a loss of the greenback’s world reserve status.  There is no “right” way out of this quandary.

When this collapse is initiated, it would certainly behoove all parties involved, including central banks, international banks, and criminal politicians, to have a scapegoat handy for the citizenry to direct their rage at.

Event Horizon Economics

An “Event Horizon” in physics is a moment or singularity in spacetime at which a gravitational pull becomes so great that there is no way to escape it.  It is a point of no return.  I believe America’s economy has reached its own Event Horizon.  Our system is now entirely fiat driven, with very little or no true economy left.  Without constant injections from the Fed, and perpetually low interest rates, the country would implode tomorrow.  This is not recovery.  Actually, I’m not sure what to call it.

Today, independent economic analysts cannot look to the numbers to determine future trends.  Most are fake, and the rest are ugly, and I’m not sure much else can be said in their regard.  Instead, we must now look to events, rather than statistics, because our country has been maneuvered into a position of utmost frailty.  Like an avalanche shelf waiting for that perfectly timed disturbance to trigger its roaring collapse.  All that is needed is a macro-crisis, and it is no great feat for such a thing to be created in our tension filled global environment.

War in Syria and Iran leading to a tripling of energy prices.  Sanctions and strife with North Korea leading to Chinese economic retribution.  Conflict between China and Japan, again leading to Chinese economic warfare and perhaps real warfare.  An opportune “cyber attack” which could be used as an excuse for a market crash and even an internet shutdown.  A “political impasse” between Reps and Dems which leads to a default of U.S. credit.  Any one of these catastrophes could easily occur (with a little nudge from some well placed people) and feed a wider global tragedy.  The important thing to remember is that while this event will be blamed for the breakdown, it was international banks, the Federal Reserve, and elements of our own government that made the domino effect possible.  They put the pieces in place.  The act that knocks them over is secondary.

I have spent the past seven years writing about “potential” threats to our overall system, but these dangers were always just beyond our sight.  Just around the corner.  Today, it is as if the journey is over, and all those threats have materialized right before my eyes as real, and imminent.  I am watching that which I warned of come to fruition, and this is certainly not a pleasant thing.  What is valuable, though, is what we have all done in the Liberty Movement with the time that we had.  From when I began writing for the movement until now, I have seen an overwhelming increase in public awareness.  It may not be obvious to newer activists, but it is there all the same.  While we still face disparaging odds, and millions upon millions of oblivious bystanders, there is, amidst these darker moments, a steadfast community of free men and women forming.  I have full faith in the future.  Much more so than I ever did before.  Our economy may be detached from reality, but our endeavors as individuals will not be.  Our resolve will be the great game changer.  Not fiscal calamity.

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The Real Fiscal Cliff

By: Peter Schiff
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The media is now fixated on an apparently new feature dominating the economic landscape: a “fiscal cliff” from which the United States will fall in January 2013. They see the danger arising from the simultaneous implementation of the $2 trillion in automatic spending cuts (spread over 10 years) agreed to in last year’s debt ceiling vote and the expiration of the Bush era tax cuts. The economists to whom most reporters listen warn that the combined impact of reduced government spending and higher taxes will slow the “recovery” and perhaps send the economy back into recession. While there is indeed much to worry about in our economy, this particular cliff is not high on the list.

Much of the fear stems from the false premise that government spending generates economic growth (for stories of countries experiencing real growth, see our latest newsletter). People tend to forget that the government can only get money from taxing, borrowing, or printing. Nothing the government spends comes for free. Money taxed or borrowed is taken out of the private sector, where it could have been used more productively. Printed money merely creates inflation. So the automatic spending cuts, to the extent they are actually allowed to go into effect, will promote economic growth not prevent it. Even most Republicans fall for the canard that spending can help the economy in general. But even those who don’t will surely do everything to avoid the political backlash from citizens on the losing end of any specific cuts.

The only reason the automatic spending cuts exist at all is that Congress lacked the integrity to identify specifics. Rest assured that Congress will likely engineer yet another escape hatch when it finds itself backed into a corner again. Repealing the cuts before they are even implemented will render laughable any subsequent deficit reduction plans. But politicians would always rather face frustration for inaction than outright anger for actual decisions. In truth though, only an extremely small portion of the cuts are scheduled to occur in 2013 anyway. If it comes to pass that Congress cannot even keep its spending cut promises for one year, how can they be expected to do so for ten?

The impact of the expiring Bush era tax cuts is much harder to assess. The adverse effects of the tax hikes could be offset by the benefits of reduced government borrowing (provided that the taxes actually result in increased revenue). But given the negative incentives created by higher marginal tax rates, particularly as they impact savings and capital investment, increased rates may actually result in less revenue, thereby widening the budget deficit.

In reality, the economy will encounter extremely dangerous terrain whether or not Congress figures out a way to wriggle out of the 2013 budgetary straightjacket. The debt burden that the United Stated will face when interest rates rise presents a much larger “fiscal cliff.” Unfortunately, no one is talking about that one.

The current national debt is about $16 trillion (this is just the funded portion…the unfunded liabilities of the Treasury are much, much larger). The only reason the United States is able to service this staggering level of debt is that the currently low interest rate on government debt (now below 2 per cent) keeps debt service payments to a relatively manageable $300 billion per year.

On the current trajectory the national debt will likely hit $20 trillion in a few years. If by that time interest rates were to return to some semblance of historic normalcy, say 5 per cent, interest payments on the debt would then run $1 trillion per year. This sum could represent almost 40 per cent of total federal revenues in 2012!

In addition to making the debt service unmanageable, higher rates would depress economic activity, thereby slowing tax collection and requiring increased government spending. This would increase the budget deficits further, putting even more upward pressure on interest rates. Higher mortgage rates and increased unemployment will put renewed downward pressure on home prices, perhaps leading to another large wave of foreclosures. My guess is that losses on government insured mortgages alone could add several hundred billion more to annual budget deficits. When all of these factors are taken into account, I believe that annual budget deficits could quickly approach, and exceed, $3 trillion. All this could be in the cards if interest rates were to approach a modest five per cent.

If the sheer enormity of the red ink were to finally worry our creditors, five per cent interest rates could quickly rise to ten. At those rates, the annual cost to pay the interest on the national debt could equal all federal tax revenues combined. If that occurs we will have to either slash federal spending across the board (including cuts to politically sensitive entitlements), raise taxes significantly on the poor and middle class (as well as the rich), default on the debt, or hit everyone with the sustained impact of high inflation. Now that’s a real fiscal cliff!

By foolishly borrowing so heavily when interest rates are low, our government is driving us toward this cliff with its eyes firmly glued to the rear view mirror (much as the new French regime appears to be doing). For years I have warned that a financial crisis would be triggered by the popping of the real estate bubble. My warnings were routinely ignored based on the near universal assumption that real estate prices would never fall. My warnings about the real fiscal cliff are also being ignored because of a similarly false premise that interest rates can never rise. However, if history can be a guide, we should view the current period of ultra-low rates as the exception rather than the rule.


Peter Schiff’s new book, The Real Crash: America’s Coming Bankruptcy – How to Save Yourself and Your Country is now available. Order your copy today.

For in-depth analysis of this and other investment topics, subscribe to Peter Schiff’s Global Investor newsletter. CLICK HERE for your free subscription.

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