Finance

The Markets, Currency, the Transfer of Wealth and anything else that affects your wallet.

Are You Ready For The Price Of Food To More Than Double By The End Of This Decade?

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Source: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com

By Michael Snyder

Are You Ready For The Price Of Food To More Than Double By The End Of This Decade?

 

Supermarket-Photo-by-Abrahami-300x300Do you think that the price of food is high now?  Just wait.  If current trends continue, many of the most common food items that Americans buy will cost more than twice as much by the end of this decade.  Global demand for food continues to rise steadily as crippling droughts ravage key agricultural regions all over the planet.  You see, it isn’t just the multi-year California drought that is affecting food prices.  Down in Brazil (one of the leading exporters of food in the world), the drought has gotten so bad that 142 cities were rationing water at one point earlier this year.  And outbreaks of disease are also having a significant impact on our food supply.  A devastating pig virus that has never been seen in the U.S. before has already killed up to 6 million pigs.  Even if nothing else bad happens (and that is a very questionable assumption to make), our food prices are going to be moving aggressively upward for the foreseeable future.  But what if something does happen?  In recent years, global food reserves have dipped to extremely low levels, and a single major global event (war, pandemic, terror attack, planetary natural disaster, etc.) could create an unprecedented global food crisis very rapidly.

A professor at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University named Timothy Richards has calculated what the drought in California is going to do to produce prices at our supermarkets in the near future.  His projections are quite sobering

  • Avocados likely to go up 17  to 35 cents to as much as $1.60 each.
  • Berries likely to rise 21 to 43 cents to as much as $3.46 per clamshell container.
  • Broccoli likely to go up 20 to 40 cents to a possible $2.18 per pound.
  • Grapes likely to rise 26 to 50 cents to a possible $2.93 per pound.
  • Lettuce likely to rise 31 to 62 cents to as much as $2.44 per head.
  • Packaged salad likely to go up 17 to 34 cents to a possible $3.03 per bag.
  • Peppers likely to go up 18 to 35 cents to a possible $2.48 per pound.
  • Tomatoes likely to rise 22 to 45 cents to a possible $2.84 per pound.

So what happens if the drought does not end any time soon?

Scientist Lynn Ingram, who has studied the climate history of the state of California extensively, told CBS News that we could potentially be facing “a century-long megadrought” in California.  If that does indeed turn out to be the case, we could be facing huge price increases for produce year after year.

And it isn’t just crops that are grown in the United States that we need to be concerned about.  As NBC News recently reported, the price of cocoa is absolutely soaring and that is going to mean much higher prices for chocolate…

As cocoa prices surge to near-record highs on demand for emerging markets, chocoholics brace for a hike in price – and maybe even a different taste, as chocolate makers hunt out cheaper ingredients.
 
Cocoa futures are up 10 percent so far this year, hitting almost £1,900 on ($3,195) a ton in March. Last year prices rose 20 percent.

In fact, experts are now warning that chocolate may soon become a “high-end luxury item” because it is becoming so expensive.

Meat prices are also starting to spiral out of control.

A virus known as porcine epidemic diarrhea has pushed pork prices up to new all-time record highs.  It has already spread to 27 states, and as I mentioned above, it has already killed up to 6 million pigs.  It is being projected that U.S. pork production will decline by about 7 percent this year as a result, and Americans could end up paying up to 20 percent more for pork by the end of the year.

The price of beef has also soared to a brand new all-time record high.  Due to the drought that never seems to let up in the western half of the country, the total size of the U.S. cattle herd has been declining for seven years in a row, and it is now the smallest that is has been since 1951.

If the overall price of food in this country increases by just an average of a little more than 12 percent a year, it will double by the end of this decade.

What would you do if you suddenly walked into the grocery store and everything was twice as much?

That is a frightening thing to think about.

Meanwhile, all of our other bills just keep going up as well.  For example, we just learned that the price of electricity hit a brand new all-time record high for the month of March.

If our incomes were keeping up with all of these price increases, that would be one thing.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  As I wrote about earlier this week, the quality of our jobs continues to go down and more Americans fall out of the middle class every single day.

According to CNBC, there are hundreds of thousands of Americans with college degrees that are working for minimum wage right now…

While a college degree might help get a job, it doesn’t necessarily mean a good salary. According to a report released last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some 260,000 workers with bachelor’s degrees and 200,000 workers with associate’s degrees are making the minimum wage.
 
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and the minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour. Some cities and states have recently raised their minimum wage, but the BLS report defines only those making $7.25 an hour or less as “minimum wage workers.”

And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in the United States has dropped for five years in a row.

This is why so many families are financially stressed these days.  The cost of living is going up at a steady pace, but for the most part our paychecks are not keeping up.  Average Americans are having to stretch their money farther than ever, and many families have reached the breaking point.

This article first appeared here at the Economic Collapse Blog.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.

 

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Image credit: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com

 

Two More Victims Of The Retail Apocalypse: Family Dollar And Coldwater Creek

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Source: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com

By Michael Snyder

Two More Victims Of The Retail Apocalypse: Family Dollar And Coldwater Creek

 

Family-Dollar-300x300Did you know that Family Dollar is closing 370 stores? When I learned of this, I was quite stunned. I knew that retailers that serve the middle class were really struggling right now, but I had no idea that things had gotten so bad for low end stores like Family Dollar. In the post-2008 era, dollar stores had generally been one of the few bright spots in the retail industry. As millions of Americans fell out of the middle class, they were looking to stretch their family budgets as far as possible, and dollar stores helped them do that. It would be great if we could say that the reason why Family Dollar is doing so poorly is because average Americans have more money now and have resumed shopping at retailers that target the middle class, but that is not happening. Rather, as you will see later in this article, things just continue to get even worse for Americans at the low end of the income scale.

I was also surprised to learn that Coldwater Creek is closing all of their stores

Women’s clothing retailer Coldwater Creek Inc. on Friday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after failing to find a buyer said it plans to close its stores by early summer.
 
Coldwater Creek joins other retailers to seek protection from creditors in recent months as consumers keep a lid on spending.
 
The company said it plans to wind down its operations over the coming months and begin going-out-of-business sales in early May, before the traditionally busy Mother’s Day weekend.
 
Coldwater Creek, which has 365 stores and employs about 6,000 people, has five stores in Maryland.

I remember browsing through a Coldwater Creek with my wife and mother-in-law just last year. At the time, my mother-in-law was excited about getting one of their catalogs. But now Coldwater Creek is going out of business, and all that will be left of that store is a big, ugly, empty space.

Of course the fact that a couple of major retailers are closing stores is nothing new. This kind of thing happens year after year.

But what we are witnessing right now is really quite startling. So many retailers are closing so many stores that it is being called a “retail apocalypse”. In a previous article entitled “This Is What Employment In America Really Looks Like…“, I detailed how major U.S. retailers have already announced the closing of thousands of stores so far this year.  If the economy really was “getting better”, this should not be happening.

So why are so many stores closing?

Well, the truth is that it is because the middle class is dying. With each passing day, more Americans lose their place in the middle class and fall into poverty. The following is an excerpt from the story of one man that this has happened to. His recent piece in the Huffington Post was entitled “Next Friday, I’ll Be Living In My Car“…

For the past 13 years, I’ve mostly been doing facility management in several locations across the state. After the position turned into more of a sales role, they laid me off. Since then, I’ve been looking to find any type of work. I’ve applied for food stamps, and I’m waiting for that. I’m mostly eating soup from a food pantry.
 
I’ve been on several interviews — second, third, fourth interviews — and just haven’t been able to land a job for whatever reason. I definitely have the qualifications and the experience. Last week, I had a job offer that I thought was secure, and we were talking my work schedule. They decided to call me back and go with an assistant rather than a manager.
 
For a number of applications, I’ve dumbed down my resume. I don’t even go with a resume sometimes, just because I don’t want them to know that I’m educated and have a master’s degree. It shoots me in the foot. They don’t want me because they don’t think I’m going to stay. I don’t blame them. I was making six figures at $60-70 an hour. Now, I’m looking for a $10 an hour job.

There are millions upon millions of Americans that can identify with what that man is going through.

Once upon a time, they were living comfortable middle class lifestyles, but now they will take any jobs that they can get.

Just today I came across a statistic that shows the massive shift that is happening in this country. A decade ago, the number of women working outnumbered the number of women on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin. But now the number of women on food stamps actually exceeds the number of women that have jobs.

Wow.

How could things have changed so rapidly over the course of just one decade?

And sadly, things continue to go downhill. Every day in America, more good jobs are being sent out of the country or are being replaced by technology. I really like how James Altucher described this trend the other day…

Technology, outsourcing, a growing temp staffing industry, productivity efficiencies, have all replaced the middle class.
 
The working class. Most jobs that existed 20 years ago aren’t needed now. Maybe they never were needed. The entire first decade of this century was spent with CEOs in their Park Avenue clubs crying through their cigars, “how are we going to fire all this dead weight?”. 2008 finally gave them the chance. “It was the economy!” they said. The country has been out of a recession since 2009. Four years now. But the jobs have not come back. I asked many of these CEOs: did you just use that as an excuse to fire people, and they would wink and say, “let’s just leave it at that.”
 
I’m on the board of directors of a temp staffing company with one billion dollars in revenues. I can see it happening across every sector of the economy. Everyone is getting fired. Everyone is toilet paper now.
 
Flush.

There is so little loyalty in corporate America these days. If you work for a major corporation, you could literally lose your job at any moment. And you can be sure that there is someone above you that is trying to figure out a way to accomplish the tasks that you currently perform much more cheaply and much more efficiently.

Most big corporations don’t care if you are personally successful or if you are able to take care of your family. What they want is to get as much out of you as possible for as little money as possible.

This is a big reason why 62 percent of all Americans make $20 or less an hour at this point.

The quality of our jobs is going down, but the cost of living just keeps going up. Just look at what is happening to food prices. For a detailed examination of this, please see my previous article entitled “Why Meat Prices Are Going To Continue Soaring For The Foreseeable Future“.

As the middle class slowly dies, less people are able to afford to buy homes. Mortgage originations at major U.S. banks have fallen to a record low, and the percentage of Americans that live in “high-poverty neighborhoods” is rising rapidly

An estimated 12.4 million Americans live in economically devastated neighborhoods, according to American Community Survey data collected from 2008 to 2012. That’s an 11 percent jump from the previous survey, conducted from 2007 to 2011. Even more startling, it’s a 72 percent increase in the population of high-poverty neighborhoods since the 2000 Census.

If nothing is done about the long-term trends that are slowly strangling the middle class to death, all of this will just be the beginning.

We will see millions more Americans lose their jobs, millions more Americans lose their homes and millions more Americans living in poverty.

The United States is being fundamentally transformed, and very few people are doing much of anything to stand in the way of this transformation. Decades of incredibly foolish decisions are starting to catch up with us, and unless something dramatic is done right away, all of these problems will soon get much, much worse.

This article first appeared here at the Economic Collapse Blog.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.

 

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Image credit: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com

 

Prelude to Economic Disaster: Billionaire Liquidates All Real Estate Ahead of Crash

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Source: http://www.shtfplan.com

By Mac Slavo

SHTFplan.com

Prelude to Economic Disaster: Billionaire Liquidates All Real Estate Ahead of Crash

 

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If you were to contact a real estate agent in any major market today they’d likely advise you the market is so “hot” that if you intend on purchasing property you’d better be prepared to act fast. They’ll adamantly point out, contrary to reality, that the housing market has recovered, available inventory is dropping, prices are rising, and they can only go higher from here.

But if you’re paying attention to what’s happening around us, and not just with our own economy here in the United States, then you’d likely have noticed that while many Americans are flying high on hopes of change and recovery, there is an economic disaster of unprecedented scale in the making.

First, we know that the third largest economy in the world, China, is going through a massive credit crunch as bad loans there have soared to near all time highs, meaning that loans are quickly becoming non-existent and credit markets are now frozen. This means that no one is going to be building ghost cities and empty malls in the Peoples’ Republic again any time soon. Moreover, it means no more easy cash. We know what happened in the United States and the rest of the world when the last credit crunch hit.

Second, as Sovereign Man points out, the richest man in Asia Li Ka-Shing (their version of Warren Buffet or Bill Gates with a reported net worth of $30 billion) has rapidly liquidated his real estate holdings and is existing the market as quickly as possible.

Here’s a guy you want to bet on– Li Ka-Shing.
 
Li is reportedly the richest person in Asia with a net worth well in excess of $30 billion, much of which he made being a shrewd property investor.
 
Li Ka-Shing was investing in mainland China back in the early 90s, way back before it became the trendy thing to do. Now, Li wants out of China. All of it.
 
Since August of last year, he’s dumped billions of dollars worth of his Chinese holdings. The latest is the $928 million sale of the Pacific Place shopping center in Beijing– this deal was inked just days ago.
 
Once the deal concludes, Li will no longer have any major property investments in mainland China.
 
This isn’t a person who became wealthy by being flippant and scared. So what does he see that nobody else seems to be paying much attention to?
 
Simple. China’s credit crunch.

But Li Ka-Shing isn’t the only one bailing. Luxury real estate investors are unloading their real estate assets as well in an effort to raise cash and not be the last one holding a dead asset. For all intents and purposes, the music in China has stopped:

Cash-strapped Chinese are scrambling to sell their luxury homes in Hong Kong, and some are knocking up to a fifth off the price for a quick sale, as a liquidity crunch looms on the mainland.

On the domestic front we’ve seen stock markets drop a fairly significant level in recent weeks. So much so that company’s hoping to launch new IPO initiatives have chosen to just sit this one out as they are worried that investors are running out of money to help fund their operations.

You wouldn’t know that, of course, because mainstream media pundits like Dennis Kneale continue to sell Americans on the notion that we’re in a robust recovery:

Yet the economy, both locally and globally, is in vastly better shape than it was when we took that terrible tumble, down to Dow 6,800 in March 2009.
 
Americans have cut back on debt, and so have companies.

Karl Denninger of the Market Ticker calls this one what it is – a complete lie – and points out that we are nowhere near cutting back on our debt.

I Despise Liars
 
US debt to present
 
“Cut back”?  Really?  Worse, ex mortgages this is not true at any level; there is $3,733.5 billion in non-mortgage consumer debt outstanding.  That is an all-time high; in Q4/2006 (just before the crash, remember?) that stood at $3,047.2 billion or nearly $700 billion less.
 
An awful lot of that increase since 2007, incidentally, is student loans — exactly where it cannot be for sustainable economic progress since the younger generation has to eventually take the reins from us older folks.  This is nothing more than an economic Ponzi scheme with its cheering section led by people like Dennis who refuse to look at and argue from facts.
 
As for corporate debt it never decreased at all.

Something is amiss, and the fact that no one in the mainstream, which is where tens of millions of Americans get their “facts,” is really talking about it should be a blaring alarm.

There are, however, some Americans paying attention. As in China, it’s the billionaires and elite who have direct access to the puppeteers pulling the strings, and like Li Ka-shing, they have been quietly and rapidly dumping millions of shares of stock:

Despite the 6.5% stock market rally over the last three months, a handful ofbillionaires are quietly dumping their American stocks . . . and fast.
 

 
In the latest filing for Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett has been drastically reducing his exposure to stocks that depend on consumer purchasing habits. Berkshire sold roughly 19 million shares of Johnson & Johnson, and reduced his overall stake in “consumer product stocks” by 21%. Berkshire Hathaway also sold its entire stake in California-based computer parts supplier Intel.
 

 
Fellow billionaire John Paulson, who made a fortune betting on the subprime mortgage meltdown, is clearing out of U.S. stocks too. During the second quarter of the year, Paulson’s hedge fund, Paulson & Co., dumped 14 million shares of JPMorgan Chase. The fund also dumped its entire position in discount retailer Family Dollar and consumer-goods maker Sara Lee.
 
Finally, billionaire George Soros recently sold nearly all of his bank stocks, including shares of JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs. Between the three banks, Soros sold more than a million shares.

The big money, often referred to as the smart money, is getting out of the game and they are dumping these assets on unsuspecting investors.

They know, for example, that earnings growth has now plunged to its lowest levels since 2012.

As these in-the-know elites unload their positions, average investors depending on their financial advisers to tell them the truth are slamming money into these stocks and paying, in some cases, 500 times earnings. Real estate investors are, likewise, overpaying for homes based on the idea that markets are “hotter” than they’ve been in years.

It’s a recipe for disaster and it won’t end well – at least for 99% of people who blindly believe the opinions of their favorite “experts.”

Image credit: http://www.shtfplan.com
 

7 Crazy Ideas Janet Yellen Did Not Mention, But Waiting in The Wings

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Source: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org

By

7 Crazy Ideas Janet Yellen Did Not Mention, But Waiting in The Wings

 

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In her speech at the New York Economic Club on Wednesday, Janet Yellen said it is “quite plausible” the economy will reach full employment in a couple of years with just the right amount of inflation, which to her mind means 2% a year.

If the economy surprises her, the Fed will “systematically respond to unforeseen economic developments.” But what exactly does this mean? How will the Fed respond?

The Fed has already made loans available to New York and foreign banks at negative real interest rates and created trillions of new dollars—all without support from either history or theory. What other steps could follow?

Here are a few of the radical ideas floating around the halls of the Fed and associated Keynesian economics departments:

1. Take a leaf from Japan by forcing banks to lend in return for Fed support.

2. Require banks to charge negative interest. This means that depositors would lose money if not used. Ms. Yellen voiced support for this idea in 2010. Some supporters of NIPR (negative interest rate policy) would like to eliminate cash entirely, because electronic money is more easily controlled.

3. Hold interest rates down but simultaneously drive inflation up to as much as 5-6%. With real interest rates at negative 5%, borrowing will soar. What isn’t clear in this scenario is why lenders will want to lend, but this idea is supported by leading lights of the Harvard economics department, and let’s not let reality intrude.

4. Create even more money and use it to buy corporate bonds, stocks, real estate, anything that can be bought, which will flood the economy with money.

Some of the ideas waiting in the wings are not monetary. They include:

5. The government should set an annual borrowing target for the economy. If it isn’t being met by the private sector, government will itself step in and borrow to achieve the target. In this proposal, it doesn’t really matter how the borrowing is used. Quantity, not quality, of spending and investment is all that counts.

6. The government should issue bonds that will never be repaid. Not simply replaced with new bonds as at present—never repaid ever.

7. Employers should have to seek government permission to lay off or fire a worker. This idea of Paul Krugman’s is already true to a large degree in France, with the result that employers are very reluctant to hire anyone.

What all these Keynesian ideas have in common is the belief that a crash caused by too much bad debt can be cured by more debt. They also assume that the very government price controls and manipulations that have caused massive unemployment can be used to undo the damage.

Unfortunately these are precisely the ideas guiding Janet Yellen and the other Keynesian PhD’s guiding world economic policy today.

 


Hunter Lewis
About Hunter Lewis

Hunter Lewis is co-founder of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org. He is co-founder and former CEO of global investment firm Cambridge Associates, LLC and author of 8 books on moral philosophy, psychology, and economics, including the widely acclaimed Are the Rich Necessary? (“Highly provocative and highly pleasurable.”—New York Times) He has contributed to the New York Times, the Times of London, the Washing­ton Post, and the Atlantic Monthly, as well as numerous websites such as Breitbart.com, Forbes.com, Fox.com, and RealClearMarkets.com. His most recent books are Crony Capitalism in America: 2008–2012, Free Prices Now! Fixing the Economy by Abolishing the Fed, and Where Keynes Went Wrong: And Why Governments Keep Creating Inflation, Bubbles, and Busts. He has served on boards and committees of fifteen leading not-for-profit organizations, including environmental, teaching, research, and cultural and global development organizations, as well as the World Bank.

The most recent book by Hunter Lewis:

Image credit: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org

 

18 Stats That Prove That Government Dependence Has Reached Epidemic Levels

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Source: http://endoftheamericandream.com

By Michael Snyder

18 Stats That Prove That Government Dependence Has Reached Epidemic Levels

 

Did you know that the number of Americans getting benefits from the federal government each month exceeds the number of full-time workers in the private sector by more than 60 million?  In other words, the number of people that are taking money out of the system is far greater than the number of people that are putting money into the system.  And did you know that nearly 70 percent of all of the money that the federal government spends goes toward entitlement and welfare programs?  When it comes to the transfer of wealth, nobody does it on a grander scale than the U.S. government.  Most of what the government does involves taking money from some people and giving it to other people.  In fact, at this point that is the primary function of the federal government.

Just check out the chart below.  It comes from the Heritage Foundation, and it shows that 69 percent of all federal money is spent either on entitlements or on welfare programs…

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So when people tell you that the main reason why we are being taxed into oblivion is so that we can “build roads” and provide “public services”, they are lying to you.  The main reason why the government taxes you so much is so that they can take your money and give it to someone else.

We have become a nation that is completely and totally addicted to government money.  The following are 18 stats that prove that government dependence has reached epidemic levels…

#1 According to an analysis of U.S. government numbers conducted by Terrence P. Jeffrey, there are 86 million full-time private sector workers in the United States paying taxes to support the government, and nearly 148 million Americans that are receiving benefits from the government each month.  How long can such a lopsided system possibly continue?

#2 Ten years ago, the number of women in the U.S. that had jobs outnumbered the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin.  But now the number of women in the U.S. on food stamps actually exceeds the number of women that have jobs.

#3 The U.S. government has spent an astounding 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs over the past five years.

#4 Today, the federal government runs about 80 different “means-tested welfare programs”, and almost all of those programs have experienced substantial growth in recent years.

#5 Back in 1960, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages was approximately 10 percent.  In the year 2000, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages was approximately 21 percent.  Today, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages is approximately 35 percent.

#6 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the total number of Americans on food stamps has gone from 32 million to nearly 47 million.

#7 Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps.  Today, about one out of every 6.5 Americans is on food stamps.

#8 It sounds crazy, but the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the entire population of the nation of Spain.

#9 According to one calculation, the number of Americans on food stamps is now greater than the combined populations of “Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.”

#10 According to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies, 43 percent of all immigrants that have been in the United States for at least 20 years are still on welfare.

#11 Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, more than 70 million Americans are on Medicaid, and it is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

#12 The number of Americans on Medicare is projected to grow from a little bit more than 50 million today to 73.2 million in 2025.

#13 Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars over the next 75 years.  That comes to approximately $328,404 for each and every household in the United States.

#14 If the number of Americans enrolled in the Social Security disability program were gathered into a single state, it would be the 8th largest state in the entire country.

#15 In 1968, there were 51 full-time workers for every American on disability.  Today, there are just 13 full-time workers for every American on disability.

#16 It is being projected that the number of Americans on Social Security will rise from about 62 million today to more than 100 million in 25 years.

#17 Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.

#18 According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, an all-time record 49.2 percent of all Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program each month.  Back in 1983, less than a third of all Americans lived in a home that received direct monetary benefits from the federal government.

Many will read this and will assume that I am against helping the poor.  That is completely and totally not true.  There will always be people that are impoverished, and this happens for many reasons.  In many cases, people simply lack the capacity to take care of themselves.  It is a good thing to take care of such people, whether the money comes from public or private sources.  In every society, those that are the most vulnerable need to be looked after.

But it is a very troubling sign that the number of people on government assistance is now far, far greater than the number of people with full-time jobs.  This is not a sustainable situation.  The federal government is already drowning in debt, and yet more people become dependent on the government with each passing day.

The long-term solution is to get more Americans working or starting their own businesses, but the federal government continues to pursue policies that are absolutely killing the creation of jobs and the creation of small businesses in this country.  So our epidemic of government dependence is going to continue to get worse.

And many of these programs are absolutely riddled with fraud and corruption.  Just check out the following excerpt from a recent Natural News article

To understand the extent of this fraudulent waste, go no further than Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist who raked in $20.8 million from Medicare in 2012 alone. Dr. Melgen isn’t the only one bathing in the fraud of this crony government program. Medicare dished out over $1 million to almost 4,000 doctors in 2012, according to the new data release analyzed by The Washington Post.
 
Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is calling on the public for help in identifying fraud. He says, “The program is funded by and large by taxpayer dollars. The public has a right to know what it is paying for. We know there is fraud in the system. We are asking for the public’s help to check, to find waste, and to find potential fraud.”

Instead of fixing their own problems, they want us to help them do it.

Just great.

And of course they always want more of our money to help fund these programs.  In fact, according to Americans for Tax Reform, Barack Obama has proposed 442 tax increases since entering the White House…

-79 tax increases for FY 2010
-52 tax increases for FY 2011
-47 tax increases for FY 2012
-34 tax increases for FY 2013
-137 tax increases for FY 2014
-93 tax increases for FY 2015
 
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Obama budget with the lowest number of proposed tax increases was released during an election year: In February 2012, Obama released his FY 2013 budget, with “only” 34 proposed tax increases. Once safely re-elected, Obama came back with a vengeance, proposing 137 tax increases, a personal record high for the 44th President.

The more we feed the monster, the larger and larger it grows.

And yet poverty is not decreasing.  In fact, the poverty rate has been at 15 percent or greater for three years in a row.  That is the first time that has happened in decades.

Barack Obama promised to “transform” America, and yet poverty and government dependence have just continued to grow during his presidency.

Not that anyone really believes anything that he has to say at this point.  In fact, one recent survey found that only 15 percent of Americans believe that Barack Obama always tells the truth and 37 percent believe that he lies “most of the time”…

A Fox News poll released Wednesday shows that six out of every ten Americans believes that President Barack Obama lies to the American people, at least some of the time. A plurality – 37% – say that he lies “most of the time,” while another 24% say he lies “some of the time.” Another 20% say he lies once in awhile, while only 15% say that he never lies.

So what do you think?

This article first appeared here at the The American Dream.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.

 

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Do you know where your 2014 taxes will go?

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Source: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org

By

Do you know where your 2014 taxes will go?

Well, here’s an amazing infographic which breaks it out beautifully*

 

This graphic comes out every year and I still find it fascinating. (And depressing.)

 

Click on the graphic for a much larger version.

* A very important note on this graphic – It doesn’t break out Social Security (the largest federal outlay, paid through payroll taxes) Medicaid, or Medicare which are all much larger than anything listed here. Still the detail on the discretionary budget is valuable.

 

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This Chart Shows Us How Bad The Economy Really Is: “Flashing Red Warning”

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Source: http://www.shtfplan.com

By Mac Slavo

This Chart Shows Us How Bad The Economy Really Is: “Flashing Red Warning”

 

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Recent weeks have led to a fairly significant drop in stock valuations, with many expert analysts struggling to figure out exactly why it’s happening. You’ll hear them cite the weather, or market overreaction, or any number of reasons for why stocks have seen their share prices reduced and why they’ll be rebounding in the near-term.

What they won’t show you on mainstream financial channels is what’s really happening behind the scenes.

Forget about all the minute-by-minute noise for a moment and take a look at the following chart. It gives a very simple overview of earnings growth trends for stocks listed on the S&P 500 on a quarterly basis.

Last year saw what analysts would call fairly robust growth, and they had no problem citing these numbers for evidence of economic recovery.

We’re curious what they’d call it now, considering this chart shows a massive collapse in earnings per share growth across the board.

Pay close attention to that yellow line, which indicates growth (or lack there of) for the first quarter of 2014. According to Zero Hedge this is a Flashing Red Warning as earnings growth plunges to its lowest levels since 2012:

While the so-called “experts” were adamant in repeating that one must ignore all Q1 economic data (because of harsh weather you know), one thing the same “experts” pounded the table on was the earnings growth in 2014 which confirmed that the Fed was correct in tapering and that the corporate sector was well on its way to achieving “escape velocity” and a stable recovery. And then this happened…

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(Chart via @Not_Jim_Cramer)

Most people, when you ask them how the economy is doing, will point to the Dow Jones, NASDAQ and S&P 500 as evidence of a healthy recovery.

What the majority of those people fail to look at is the underlying valuations for the stocks within those indexes.

If you are an investor and hold stocks, or are thinking about jumping in because this latest “correction” is about to take a turn for the better, we direct your attention to this absolutely critical piece of information regarding price-per-earnings from Karl Denninger of Market Ticker.

A bit of perspective is in order here.  The number of stocks that have been trading on nothing more than QE-addled leverage, with nosebleed territory P/Es including Facebook (96), Amazon (537!), Netflix (180), LinkedIn (762), Salesforce (Negative P/E) and Twitter (ditto; -$3.41 EPS.)
 
Yeah, but the market is “cheap”, right?  Sure it is with all these big-cap techs trading at prices like this…
 

 
There is only one reason to buy such a stock — you’re convinced that some other sucker will pay you an even greater multiple to sales (say much less earnings) than you paid.
 
That the air will eventually come out of such a market is inevitable.

The P/E ratio of a stock is basically the price of the stock compared to the earnings of said share. In the case of Amazon trading at 537 times earnings, this is an INCREDIBLE number considering most conservative financial advisers recommend dividend earning stocks in the 10 – 12 P/E range for investment purposes. In essence, the easiest way to interpret Amazon today is that an investor is willing to pay $537 for $1 in current earnings. So, investors who bought Amazon stock at its current price should see a return on that investment… in about 537 years (give or take)  at current earnings.

Yes, that’s how crazy the stock market is right now, and Amazon is certainly not alone insofar as over-valuation is concerned.

Couple that with the earning growth chart above and you can clearly see that we are in very dangerous territory here.

And this doesn’t even take into account the economic warfare playing out between East and West, where Russia has now announced it will be actively pursuing a strategy to decouple its resource trade from the US dollar, meaning it will now trade in local currencies as opposed to the world’s traditional reserve currency.

As this new form of warfare plays out by the worlds super powers, all monetary systems will be affected. So how is this going to affect you? These effects will cause a continued degradation of the U.S. dollar with the real possibility that China and Russia will stop funding our debt. If and when this happens, the-you-know-what will inevitably hit the fan. 

As Paul Craig Roberts noted recently, there is a reckoning coming and all evidence points to economic failure in 2014.

Or, we can all just go along with the prevailing narrative and pretend like happy days are here again.

The following song was released shortly after the 1929 stock market crash before anyone had realized its implications. It reassured Americans that “Your cares and troubles are gone… there’ll be no more from now on.”

We know how that ended up…

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Image credit: http://www.shtfplan.com
 

Another Phony Budget Debate

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Source: http://www.ronpaulinstitute.org

By Ron Paul

 

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Another Phony Budget Debate

 

Anyone watching last week’s debate over the Republican budget resolution would have experienced déjà vu, as the debate bore a depressing similarity to those of previous years. Once again, the Republicans claimed their budget would cut spending in a responsible manner, while Democratic opponents claimed the plan’s spending cuts would shred the safety net and leave vital programs unfunded. Of course, neither claim is true.

The budget does not cut spending at all, and in fact actually increases spending by $1.5 trillion over ten years. The Republicans are using the old DC trick of spending less than originally planned and calling that reduced spending increase a $5.1 trillion cut in spending. Only in DC could a budget that increases spending by 3.5 percent per year instead of by 5.2 percent per year be attacked as a “slash-and-burn” plan.

The budget also relies on “dynamic scoring.” This trick is where the budget numbers account for increased government revenue generated by economic growth the budget will supposedly unleash. The claims are dubious at best. Of course, reducing government spending will lead to economic growth. But real growth requires real cuts, not this budget’s phony cuts.

As important as reducing spending and balancing the budget is, focusing solely on budget numbers ignores the root of the problem. The real problem is that too many in Washington — and the nation as a whole — refuse to consider any serious reductions in the welfare-warfare state.

I have always maintained that the logical place to start reducing spending is the trillions wasted on our interventionist foreign policy. Unfortunately, there are still too many in Congress who claim to be fiscal hawks when it comes to welfare spending, but turn into Keynesian “doves” when it comes to spending on the military-industrial complex.

These members cling to the mistaken belief that the government can balance it budget, keep taxes low, and even have a growing economy, while spending trillions of dollars policing the world, and propping up some governments and changing others overtly or covertly. Thus, President Obama is attacked as soft on defense because he only wants to spend $5.9 trillion over ten years on the military. In contrast, the Republican budget spends $6.2 trillion over the next decade. That is almost a trillion more than the budget’s total so-called spending cuts.

If there are too many fiscal conservatives who refuse to abandon the warfare state, there are too many liberals who act as if any reduction in welfare or entitlement spending leaves children starving. I agree it is unrealistic to simply end programs that people are currently dependent on. However, isn’t it inhumane to not take steps to unwind the welfare system before government overspending causes a bigger financial crisis and drags millions more into poverty?

Far from abandoning those in need of help, returning the responsibility for caring for the needy to private charities, churches, and local communities will improve the welfare system. At the very least,  young people should have the freedom to choose to pay a lower tax rate in exchange for promising to never participate in a government welfare or entitlement program.

Last week’s budget debate showed how little difference there lies between the parties when it comes to preserving the warfare-welfare state. One side may prefer more warfare while the other prefers more welfare, but neither side actually wants to significantly reduce the size and scope of government. Until Congress stops trying to run the world, run the economy, and run our lives, there will never be a real debate about cutting spending and limiting government.

Inside The Fed – What Janet Yellen Won’t Tell You

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Source: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org

By

Inside The Fed – What Janet Yellen Won’t Tell You

 

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What is Janet Yellen, new Fed chairman, really worried about?

 

Is it that reported unemployment will stay high, that the economic recovery will never get off the ground, that we will fall back into recession, or that consumer prices will fall, thereby further endangering the huge debts that already zombify the economy? These are big concerns, no doubt, but not her largest worry. Her largest worry has to be that foreigners will stop buying U.S. bonds.

This is far from a needless worry. Recent events, events of just the past few months and weeks, including the Russian invasion of Crimea, make it even more of a threat to the U.S. government. But, first, some background.

Foreign individuals and businesses cut back on their purchases of U.S. bonds years ago. Their place was taken by foreign central banks. The central banks simply created money in their own currency and used it to buy our bonds.

Why did they do this? The Japanese may have done this because they rely on us for defense and want to help support our economy. But most of the central banks did it to keep their own currencies from appreciating against the dollar.

The more dollars they bought, the less their own currencies appreciated against the dollar. In this way, they kept their export prices down and protected their export related jobs.

This was not unlike the trade wars of the 1930’s, conducted with tariffs, but this time the trade wars were conducted with currency manipulations.

The Federal Reserve always knew that we couldn’t rely on foreign central banks to buy our bonds forever. That is probably the main reason it began the program called quantitative easing, in which the Fed created money out of thin air specifically to buy back U.S. debt.

Quantitative easing was a kind of insurance policy. If foreign central bank buying of U.S. bonds collapsed, the Fed would already have a program in place to buy them back itself.

The Fed always said that quantitative easing was meant to create U.S. jobs. But this never made much sense. Even a hard core proponent of QE, Fed official William Dudley ( formerly of Goldman Sachs), admitted that the Fed’s own economic models could not explain how creating money out of thin air and using it to buy U.S. bonds would increase employment. Some link to rising stock prices could be demonstrated, but then rising stock prices could not be shown to create jobs either.

One inference from this was that chairman Ben Bernanke, and now new chairman Janet Yellen, were just taking wild stabs in the dark. A more reasonable inference is that they had another reason for QE, one which they did not want to acknowledge.

Viewed in this way, it becomes clear that the 2008 bail-out was not so much a bail-out of Wall Street as a bail-out of Washington. The Federal Reserve feared that the market for government bonds was about to collapse, which would lead to soaring interest rates, and a complete collapse of our bubble financed government.

The Fed did not have the option of creating money and buying debt directly from the Treasury. That would be illegal. The Treasury must first sell its bonds to Wall Street, after which the Fed can then use its newly created money to buy them back. Hence, in order to rescue the Treasury, the Fed felt it had to rescue Wall Street.

This is a simplification of what happened, and only part of the story, but it is the untold part of the story, and in all likelihood the most important part. The Fed was in a panic in 2008, but not primarily about what might happen to Wall Street, and certainly not about what might happen to Main Street. It was in a panic over what might happen to government finance.

This interpretation is strengthened by new information contained in former Treasury secretary Hank Paulson’s recent book. He revealed that Russia tried in 2008 to persuade China to join in a collaborative effort to dump U.S. bonds in order to bring down the U.S. financial system. Although China refused to do so at the time, it is clear that China regards us as a geo-political foe, would like to end dollar dominance, and has itself been paring U.S. bond purchases.

The end result of the Fed’s panic during the Crash was over $3 trillion worth of Fed purchases of U.S. or what became U.S. backed bonds. In only a few years, the Fed became the largest single owner of U.S. bonds, even larger than Japan or China. The total U.S. debt held by the Fed today equals the entire U.S. debt at the end of the Clinton administration. It is of course completely nonsensical that the U.S. government is borrowing such large sums from itself.

At the moment, Janet Yellen’s worries about finding buyers of government bonds can only be getting worse. For much of last year, foreign central bank purchases of U.S. bonds fell. As of October of 2013, they had been negative for three and six months. Then they turned up a smidge, only to fall again, so that the last three months show a decrease of over 5%.

It is known that Russia has withdrawn its U.S. bonds from custody of the Fed after the Crimea invasion, and has either been selling or could sell at any time. It will no doubt try again to persuade other countries to join in undermining the U.S. bond market and replacing the dollar as the mainstay of world trade.

Under these circumstances, it should not be surprising that the Fed is today taking only baby steps to reduce its program of creating new money to buy U.S. bonds. This program is not just meant to revive the economy, which it has not done and cannot do. It is more likely designed as a desperate and in the long run counterproductive effort to finance the U.S. government and save today’s dollar dominated financial system.

Most recent book by Hunter Lewis:

Image credit: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org

 


Hunter Lewis
About Hunter Lewis

Hunter Lewis is co-founder of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org. He is co-founder and former CEO of global investment firm Cambridge Associates, LLC and author of 8 books on moral philosophy, psychology, and economics, including the widely acclaimed Are the Rich Necessary? (“Highly provocative and highly pleasurable.”—New York Times) He has contributed to the New York Times, the Times of London, the Washing­ton Post, and the Atlantic Monthly, as well as numerous websites such as Breitbart.com, Forbes.com, Fox.com, and RealClearMarkets.com. His most recent books are Crony Capitalism in America: 2008–2012, Free Prices Now! Fixing the Economy by Abolishing the Fed, and Where Keynes Went Wrong: And Why Governments Keep Creating Inflation, Bubbles, and Busts. He has served on boards and committees of fifteen leading not-for-profit organizations, including environmental, teaching, research, and cultural and global development organizations, as well as the World Bank.

 

Why Meat Prices Are Going To Continue Soaring For The Foreseeable Future

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Source: http://endoftheamericandream.com

By Michael Snyder

Why Meat Prices Are Going To Continue Soaring For The Foreseeable Future

 

Drought-Monitor-April-1-300x231The average price of USDA choice-grade beef has soared to $5.28 a pound, and the average price of a pound of bacon has skyrocketed to $5.46.  Unfortunately for those that like to eat meat, this is just the beginning of the price increases.  Due to an absolutely crippling drought that won’t let go of the western half of the country, the total size of the U.S. cattle herd has shrunk for seven years in a row, and it is now the smallest that is has been since 1951.  But back in 1951, we had less than half the number of mouths to feed.  And a devastating pig virus that has never been seen in the United States before has already killed up to 6 million pigs in this country and continues to spread like wildfire.  What all of this means is that the supply of meat is going to be tight for the foreseeable future even as demand for meat continues to go up.  This is going to result in much higher prices, and so food is going to put a much larger dent in American family budgets in the months and years to come.

One year ago, the average price of USDA choice-grade beef was $4.91.  Now it is up to $5.28, and the Los Angeles Times says that we should not expect prices to come down “any time soon”…

Come grilling season, expect your sirloin steak to come with a hearty side of sticker shock.
 
Beef prices have reached all-time highs in the U.S. and aren’t expected to come down any time soon.
 
Extreme weather has thinned the nation’s beef cattle herds to levels last seen in 1951, when there were about half as many mouths to feed in America.
 
We’ve seen strong prices before but nothing this extreme,” said Dennis Smith, a commodities broker for Archer Financial Services in Chicago. This is really new territory.

The outlook for pork is even worse.  The price of bacon is 13 percent higher than it was a year ago, and porcine epidemic diarrhea is absolutely devastating the U.S. pig population

A virus never before seen in the U.S. has killed millions of baby pigs in less than a year, and with little known about how it spreads or how to stop it, it’s threatening pork production and pushing up prices by 10 percent or more.
 
Scientists think porcine epidemic diarrhea, which does not infect humans or other animals, came from China, but they don’t know how it got into the country or spread to 27 states since last May.

It is estimated that up to 6 million pigs may have died already, and it is being projected that U.S. pork production could be down by 7 percent this year.  That would be the largest decline in more than 30 years.

But even if someone brought an end to this pig virus tomorrow, we would still be facing a very serious food crisis in this nation.

The reason for this is the multi-year drought which is crippling farming and ranching in much of the western half of the country.

As you can see from the latest U.S. Drought Monitor update, the drought shows no signs of letting up…

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Hopefully this drought will end soon.

But I wouldn’t count on it.

In fact, CBS News recently interviewed one scientist that says that the state of California could potentially be facing “a century-long megadrought“…

Scientist Lynn Ingram, author of “The West without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us about Tomorrow,” uses sediment cores inside tubes to study the history of drought in the West.
 
“We’ve taken this record back about 3,000 years,” Ingram says.
 
That record shows California is in one of its driest periods since 1580.
 
While a three-to-five-year drought is often thought of as being a long drought, Ingram says history shows they can be much longer.
 
If we go back several thousand years, we’ve seen that droughts can last over a decade, and in some cases, they can last over a century,” she says.

So what will we do if this drought just keeps going and going and going?

As the article quoted above noted, last century was far wetter than usual.  During that time, we built teeming cities in the desert and we farmed vast areas that are usually bone dry…

Scientists say their research shows the 20th century was one of the wettest centuries in the past 1,300 years. During that time, we built massive dams and rerouted rivers. We used abundant water to build major cities and create a $45 billion agriculture industry in a place that used to be a desert.

So what happens if the western half of the country returns to “normal”?

What will we do then?

Meanwhile, drought is devastating many other very important agricultural areas around the world as well.  For example, the horrible drought in Brazil could soon send the price of coffee through the roof

Coffee futures prices are up more than 75 percent this year due to a lack of appreciable rain in the coffee growing region of eastern Brazil during January and February, which are critical months for plant development, according to the International Coffee Organization, a London-based trade group.

At this point, 142 Brazilian cities are rationing water, and it wouldn’t just be coffee that would be affected by this drought.  As a recent RT article explained, Brazil is one of the leading exporters in a number of key agricultural categories…

Over 140 Brazilian cities have been pushed to ration water during the worst drought on record, according to a survey conducted by the country’s leading newspaper. Some neighborhoods only receive water once every three days.
 
Water is being rationed to nearly 6 million people living in a total of 142 cities across 11 states in Brazil, the world’s leading exporter of soybeans, coffee, orange juice, sugar and beef. Water supply companies told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that the country’s reservoirs, rivers and streams are the driest they have been in 20 years. A record heat wave could raise energy prices and damage crops.
 
Some neighborhoods in the city of Itu in Sao Paulo state (which accounts for one-quarter of Brazil’s population and one-third of its GDP), only receive water once every three days, for a total of 13 hours.

Most people just assume that we will always have massive quantities of cheap, affordable food in our supermarkets.

But just because that has been the case for as long as most of us can remember, that does not mean that it will always be true.

Times are changing, and food prices are already starting to move upward aggressively.

Yes, let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

This article first appeared here at the The American Dream.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.

 

 

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Image credit: http://endoftheamericandream.com
 

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