10 Signs That Confidence In U.S. Treasuries Is Dying And That Financial Armageddon May Be Approaching
Selling government debt is a gigantic confidence game. For decades, investors all over the globe have gobbled up massive amounts of U.S. debt at incredibly low interest rates because they believed that it was a certainly that they would be paid back and be able to make a little bit of profit on top of it. Unfortunately, things have changed. Confidence is U.S. Treasuries is dying, and if confidence in U.S. government debt completely collapses at some point we could literally be looking at financial Armageddon. Why is that so? Well, when the world totally loses faith in U.S. Treasuries, interest rates on U.S. Treasuries will have to keep going up until enough investors are found to buy them. But much higher interest rates will mean much higher interest on the national debt and thus much higher federal budget deficits. That will erode confidence in U.S. Treasuries even further. In the end, a vicious cycle of eroding confidence and higher interest rates could ultimately lead to hyperinflation as the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve flood the system with endless amounts of paper money to try to keep the system solvent.
Faith in U.S. Treasury bonds is absolutely critical if the world financial system is going to continue to operate in a stable manner. In the post-World War 2 era, U.S. Treasuries have been largely viewed as the absolutely safest investment out there. So if there comes a point when the market for U.S. Treasuries completely collapses, it is going to cause unprecedented financial chaos. The worldwide derivatives market, which is already highly unstable, would almost certainly implode. Credit markets all over the globe would seize up. Global trade would quickly grind to a standstill.
This isn’t going to happen overnight (hopefully). Rather, the loss of confidence in U.S. Treasuries is something that is likely to take months or even years to play out. But once that confidence is gone, it is not something that will be able to be rebuilt easily.
Think of it this way – once you drive a car off a cliff, is it easy to reconstruct it?
Of course not.
Well, that is where we are headed with U.S. Treasuries.
The Federal Reserve is flooding the system with new dollars, Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress seem poised to pass a new tax deal which does not include corresponding spending cuts which will cause U.S. government budget deficits to become even more bloated, and there is a tremendous lack of faith both in U.S. political leaders and in the Federal Reserve at this point.
The rest of the world is losing faith that the U.S. government is going to be able to handle all of the debt that it has accumulated. We may be approaching a “tipping point” soon.
The following are 10 signs that confidence in U.S. Treasuries is dying….
#1 The financial community is extremely concerned that the tax deal that Barack Obama is pushing is going to dramatically increase U.S. government budget deficits over the next two years. On Monday, Moody’s warned that if Barack Obama’s tax deal with the Republicans becomes law, it will increase the likelihood that Moody’s could soon be forced to slash the rating of U.S. government debt.
#2 Already there are signs that some bond investors are looking for the exits. Last week, U.S. Treasuries suffered their largest two day sell-off since the collapse of Lehman Brothers back in September 2008.
#3 The yield on 10-year Treasury bonds set a six-month high on Monday before pulling back a bit. Most analysts believe that Treasury yields are going to push significantly higher in coming weeks.
#4 This trend of rising yields has been going on for a while. In fact, yields on 10-year Treasury bonds have been steadily rising since October 7th.
#5 Even before the recent tax deal was announced there were already troubling signs regarding the growth of U.S. government debt. The U.S. government budget deficit rose to $150.4 billion in November, which was the largest November budget deficit ever recorded.
#6 It is not just the new tax deal that has investors around the globe spooked. The truth is that the rest of the globe reacted very negatively to the new round of quantitative easing that the Federal Reserve announced back in November. The Federal Reserve is flooding the system with liquidity and the rest of the world is not amused.
#7 The American people have less faith in the Federal Reserve and in the financial system than at any other point in recent memory. For example, a new Bloomberg National Poll has found that a majority of Americans now want the Federal Reserve to either be held more accountable or to be abolished entirely.
#8 Investors all over the globe are starting to wake up and realize that America’s debt problem is unsolvable. David Bloom, the currency chief at HSBC, raised eyebrows when he recently stated that “if yields are rising because people think America’s fiscal situation is unsustainable, then its Armaggedon.”
#9 There is also a growing feeling among investors that the Federal Reserve simply does not care about the danger of inflation, and this is making bondholders very nervous. Stephen Lewis of Monument Securities recently put it this way….
“There is a feeling that the Fed doesn’t care about inflation – in fact, wants more of it – and that is certainly not in the interest of bondholders.“
#10 Over the next 12 months, the U.S. government is going to be rolling over trillions of dollars in debt along with all of the new borrowing that it is going to be doing. In fact, the U.S. government is somehow going to have to find a way to finance debt that is equivalent to 27.8 percent of GDP in 2011.
For years our politicians have told us that “deficits don’t matter”, but the truth is that they do matter. The national debt of the United States is now the biggest debt in the history of the world by far, and yet most Americans do not seem to grasp the absolute financial horror that we are facing as a nation.
In the end, debt is always painful. It can be a lot of fun to run out and buy a beautiful new house, a couple of brand new cars and to run your credit cards up to the max, but eventually it catches up with you. Well, the same thing is now happening to us on a national level.
We are getting to the point where eventually we are not even going to be able to service the debt that we have already piled up. Once that happens we can either declare national bankruptcy or we can try to hyperinflate our way out of trouble.
Meanwhile, the once great U.S. economic machine is dying as well. The only reason we have been able to survive with all of this debt as long as we have is because of how powerful our economy has been.
But over the past couple of decades, the big global corporations that now dominate our economy have shipped thousands of factories and millions of jobs overseas.
The mighty economic machine which is supposed to provide funds to pay off all of this debt is being dismantled right in front of our eyes.
There was no way in the world that U.S. government debt was going to be sustainable even if our economy remained vibrant and healthy. The sad truth is that U.S. government debt is approximately 13 times larger than it was just 30 years ago.
But now that the “real economy” is dying a savage death there is simply no hope that this thing is ever going to turn around. The only thing left to do is to take bets on when the implosion is going to happen.
All of this “great tax cut debate” nonsense going on in Washington D.C. right now is just a bunch of incompetent politicians running around rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Perhaps these tax cuts will provide enough of a short-term economic boost to get many of them re-elected in 2012. Meanwhile, our long-term economic problems continue to get a lot worse.
It has become quite obvious that Barack Obama is completely clueless about the economy, and what is even sadder is that the “highly educated” Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, seems almost equally as clueless.
Unfortunately, Americans have become so dumbed-down that they don’t even realize that their leaders are incompetent. In fact, as sad as it is to say, most Americans you will meet on the street probably cannot even tell you what U.S. Treasuries are.
Let us hope and pray that investors around the globe continue to have at least some confidence in U.S. Treasuries for at least a little while longer. When “financial Armageddon” finally does happen, it isn’t going to be pleasant for any of us.
So enjoy these happy economic times while you still have them, because at some point things are going to get a whole lot worse.
Jobless Recovery?: 25 Unemployment Statistics That Are Almost Too Depressing To Read
Guess what? Unemployment is up again! That’s right – even though Wall Street is swimming in cash and the Obama administration is declaring that “the recession is over”, the U.S. unemployment rate has gone even higher. So are you enjoying the jobless recovery? The truth is that there should not be any talk of a “recovery” as long as the “official” unemployment rate remains at around 10 percent and the “real” unemployment continues to hover around 17 percent. There are millions and millions of American families that are living every day in deep pain because of the lack of jobs. Meanwhile, there are all of these economic pundits that are declaring that we are just going to have to realize that chronic unemployment is the “new normal” and that if other nations can handle high rates of unemployment then so can we. The most optimistic economists are projecting that we can perhaps get the unemployment rate down to around 8 percent by 2012. On the other hand, there are many economists that are convinced that things are going to get even worse.
If you have never been unemployed, it can be hard to describe how soul-crushing it can be. As the bills pile up and the financial obligations mount, the pressure can be debilitating. Being unemployed for an extended period of time can easily plunge you into depression and grind your self-worth away to almost nothing. After getting rejected dozens of times (or even hundreds of times), many Americans simply give up. There are countless marriages and countless families that are being ripped to shreds by financial pressure even as you read this. When the money is gone and there is no job in sight it can be a really, really empty feeling.
Of course there is a whole lot more to life than money, but it can be difficult to tell that to someone who can barely sleep at night because of the intense pressure to find a job.
The vast majority of Americans have at least one family member or close friend that is looking for work right now. Times are really, really tough and unfortunately the long-term outlook is very bleak. We should have compassion on those who are out of work right now, because soon many of us may join them.
The following are 25 unemployment statistics that are almost too depressing to read….
#1 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. unemployment rate for November was 9.8 percent. This was up from 9.6 percent in October, and it continues a trend of depressingly high unemployment rates. The official unemployment number has been at 9.5 percent or higher for well over a year at this point.
#2 In November 2006, the “official” U.S. unemployment rate was just 4.5 percent.
#3 Most economists had been expecting the U.S. economy to add about 150,000 jobs in November. Instead, it only added 39,000.
#4 In the United States today, there are over 15 million people who are “officially” considered to be unemployed for statistical purposes. But everyone knows that the “real” number is even much larger than that.
#5 As 2007 began, there were just over 1 million Americans that had been unemployed for half a year or longer. Today, there are over 6 million Americans that have been unemployed for half a year or longer.
#6 The number of “persons not in the labor force” in the United States recently set another new all-time record.
#7 It now takes the average unemployed American over 33 weeks to find a job.
#8 When you throw in “discouraged workers” and “underemployed workers”, the “real” unemployment rate in the state of California is actually about 22 percent.
#9 In America today there are not nearly enough jobs for everyone. In fact, there are now approximately 5 unemployed Americans for every single job opening.
#10 According to The New York Times, Americans that have been unemployed for five weeks or less are three times more likely to find a new job in the coming month than Americans that have been unemployed for over a year.
#11 The U.S. economy would need to create 235,120 new jobs a month to get the unemployment rate down to pre-recession levels by 2016. Does anyone think that there is even a prayer that is going to happen?
#12 There are 9 million Americans that are working part-time for “economic reasons”. In other words, those Americans would gladly take full-time jobs if they could get them, but all they have been able to find is part-time work.
#13 In 2009, total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined in the United States.
#14 As of the end of 2009, less than 12 million Americans worked in manufacturing. The last time that less than 12 million Americans were employed in manufacturing was in 1941.
#15 The United States has lost at least 7.5 million jobs since the recession began.
#16 Today, only about 40 percent of Ford Motor Company’s 178,000 workers are employed in North America, and a big percentage of those jobs are in Canada and Mexico.
#17 In 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of U.S. economic output. In 2008, it represented 11.5 percent.
#18 Earlier this year, one poll found that 28% of all American households had at least one member that was looking for a full-time job.
#19 In the United States today, over 18,000 parking lot attendants have college degrees.
#20 The United States has lost a staggering 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.
#21 As the employment situation continues to stagnate, millions of American families have decided to cut back on things such as insurance coverage. For example, the percentage of American households that have life insurance coverage is at its lowest level in 50 years.
#22 Unless Congress acts, and there is no indication that is going to happen, approximately 2 million Americans will stop receiving unemployment checks over the next couple of months.
#23 A poll that was released by the Pew Research Center back in June discovered that an astounding 55 percent of the U.S. labor force has experienced either unemployment, a pay decrease, a reduction in hours or an involuntary move to part-time work since the economic downturn began.
#24 According to Richard McCormack, the United States has lost over 42,000 factories (and counting) since 2001.
#25 In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.
But this is what we get for creating the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world. For decades we have been digging a deeper hole for ourselves by going into increasingly larger amounts of debt. In America today, our entire economy is based on debt. Even our money is debt. We were fools if we ever thought this could go on forever.
Just think about it. Have you ever gone out and run up a bunch of debt? It can be a lot of fun sitting behind the wheel of a new car, running your credit cards up to the limit and buying a beautiful big house that you cannot afford.
But in the end what happens?
It always catches up with you.
Well, our collective debt is starting to catch up with us. There is a sea of red ink on every level of American society. It is only a matter of time before it destroys our economy.
If you think that things are bad now, just wait. Things are going to get a whole lot worse. A horrific economic collapse is coming, and it is going to be very, very painful.
The Real Horror Story: The U.S. Economic Meltdown
This October, millions of Americans are going to watch horror movies and read horror stories because they enjoy being frightened. Well, if you really want to be scared, you should just check out the real horror story unfolding right before our eyes – the U.S. economic meltdown. It seems like more bad news for the U.S. economy comes out almost every single day now. Unfortunately, things are about to get a whole lot worse. The mainstream media has been treating “Foreclosuregate” as if it is a minor nuisance, but the truth is that the lid is about to be publicly lifted on years and years of massive fraud in the U.S. mortgage industry, and this thing has the potential to cause economic chaos that is absolutely unprecedented. Over the past several days, expert after expert has been coming forward and warning that this crisis could completely and totally paralyze the mortgage industry in the United States. If that happens, it will be essentially like pulling the plug on the U.S. economic recovery.
Not that there was going to be a recovery anyway. The truth is that economic statistic after economic statistic has been pointing to incredible trouble for the U.S. economy.
For example, the U.S. government just announced that the U.S. trade deficit went up again in August. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. trade deficit was $46.3 billion during August, which was up significantly from $42.6 billion in July.
So how much coverage did this get in the mainstream media?
Well, just about none.
We have gotten so used to horrific trade deficits that it isn’t even news anymore.
But these trade deficits are absolutely killing our economy.
How long do you think that the U.S. economy can keep shelling out 40 or 50 billion more dollars than we take in every single month?
If you look at the countries around the world that have become very wealthy, almost all of them have gotten that way by trading with the United States.
Meanwhile, many of our once great manufacturing cities are turning into open sewers.
Every single politician in the United States should be talking about the trade deficit.
But hardly any of them are.
Is it because Americans have all become so dumbed-down that we don’t understand these things anymore, or is it because we are so distracted by the various forms of entertainment that we are addicted to that we just don’t care?
But the trade deficit is not the only economic statistic that is getting worse.
According to the Department of Labor, for the week ending October 9th the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims was 462,000, which represented an increase of 13,000 from the previous week.
We have an unemployment epidemic going on in this country, but what did the mainstream media do in response to this news?
They yawned. Instead, many of the “financial experts” were busy talking about how wonderful it is that the Stock Market is going up, up, up.
Well, as one reader recently reminded me, if you want to evaluate an economy by how much the stock market is going up, then the economy of Zimbabwe has had an absolutely wonderful decade!
The truth is that the stock market is not a good barometer for what is actually going on.
What is really happening is that the U.S. economic system is literally coming apart at the seams.
Yet another piece of really bad economic news that just came out is that the number of home repossessions by banks set a new all-time record during the month of September. The record total of 102,134 bank repossessions was the first time ever that bank repossessions climbed over the 100,000 mark for a single month.
The good news is that bank repossessions are about to come to a screeching halt.
The bad news is that it is because the U.S. mortgage industry is about to become completely and totally paralyzed by this foreclosure fraud crisis.
The following are three basic points to remember about this foreclosure mess….
A) Massive Fraud Was Committed At Every Stage By The Mortgage Industry
In a previous article entitled “Foreclosure Fraud: 6 Things You Need To Know About The Crisis That Could Potentially Rip The U.S. Economy To Shreds“, I attempted to describe just how widespread the fraud in the mortgage industry has been….
The truth is that there was fraud going on in every segment of the mortgage industry over the past decade. Predatory lending institutions were aggressively signing consumers up for mortgages that they knew they could never repay. Many consumers were also committing fraud because a lot of them also knew that they could never possibly repay the mortgages. These bad mortgages were fraudulently bundled up and securitized, and these securitized financial instruments were fraudulently marketed as solid investments. Those who certified that these junk securities were “AAA rated” also committed fraud. Then these securities were traded at lightning speed all over the globe and a ton of mortgage paperwork became “lost” or “missing”.
Finally, when it came time to foreclose on these bad mortgages, a whole lot more fraud was committed. Thousands upon thousands of foreclosure documents were “robo-signed”, but the truth is that investigators are starting to discover a lot of things about these mortgages that are a lot worse than that.
B) Nobody Really Knows Who Owns Or Who Has The Right To Foreclose On Millions Upon Millions Of Mortgages
The legal rights to millions of U.S. mortgages has been scrambled so badly that it might actually be impossible to fully sort this mess out. In particular, MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems) has created a paperwork nightmare that may never be able to be completely remediated.
On a previous article, a reader named William left a comment that did a great job of describing the very serious problem that we are now facing because of MERS….
MERS – potentially the most serious problem because it affects who really owns the loans. Securitization mandates that loans be transferred into REMIC trusts within a strict timeframe. Late transfers are not allowed. In spite of the supposed “ease” of transfer through MERS, it now appears that perhaps 60% of US loans were never properly transferred. Absent remedial legislation, it is impossible to do so now. And the former owners may be out of business or bankrupt. So how do we get these loans to the trust beneficiaries who were supposed to own them? This is no simple paperwork correction. The train has left the station, with no more to follow.
C) Unprecedented Chaos Is Going To Erupt As Faith In The Mortgage System Completely Dies
So what is going to happen as a result of all of this fraud and confusion in the mortgage industry? Well, basically everybody is going to sue everybody. It is going to be absolute mayhem.
Charles Hugh Smith recently put it this way….
Real estate attorneys can rejoice: everyone will get sued, in every court in the land. Banks will get sued, title insurance companies will get sued, realtors will get sued, foreclosure mills will get sued, MERS will get sued, and so on. The attorneys general of the states will all sue the banks and mortgage mills, claiming billions in damages.
Meanwhile, virtually nobody will want to buy any house that has been foreclosed on in the past ten years or so until this mess is sorted out (which could take years and years).
Meanwhile, title insurance companies are going to avoid foreclosures like the plague.
Meanwhile, all of the investors that have been propping up the housing market by buying foreclosures are going to be fleeing the market in droves.
Meanwhile, the financial world is going to be trying to figure out which U.S. lending institutions are still solvent. The value of most mortgage-based assets is now totally up in the air.
Meanwhile, millions more homeowners across the United States will be emboldened to quit making payments on their mortgages as they realize that those holding their mortgages may not have the legal right to foreclose on them.
And that is where the true horror of this entire situation may lie. What is going to happen if millions upon millions of Americans holding underwater mortgages look at this situation and decide that they really don’t have to be afraid of the threat of foreclosure any longer?
If a massive wave of homeowners suddenly decides to simply quit paying their mortgages, it would basically wipe out nearly the entire mortgage industry.
That would likely mean more government bailouts, more government control, much higher mortgage rates and eventually a serious crash in housing prices.
This crisis is incredibly complicated and it has a ton of moving parts, so it is extremely difficult to describe accurately. But the reality is that this mess has the potential to hurt the U.S. real estate market much more than “subprime mortgages” ever did.
Hopefully this crisis will not be “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for the U.S. economy, but with each passing day this thing looks even more horrifying.
One way or another, real estate law in the United State is going to be changed forever as a result of this crisis. It is going to be extremely interesting to see how all of this plays out.
Record Low Mortgage Rates, A Record Low Federal Funds Rate And Obscene Economic Stimulus Spending Have All Failed – Will Nothing Stimulate This Dead Horse Of An Economy?
Over the past several years, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government have tried everything that they can think of to stimulate this dead horse of an economy but nothing has worked. The Fed has slashed the federal funds rate to record low levels, mortgage rates have been pushed to all-time lows and the U.S. government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in an effort to get the economy going. But despite all these of these extraordinary efforts, the U.S. economy continues to just lie there like a dead corpse. Never before have the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government done more to try to stimulate the economy and never before have their efforts produced such poor results. Home sales continue to set new record lows, more than 14 million Americans continue to be unemployed, foreclosures continue to soar, personal bankruptcies continue to soar and an increasing number of Americans continue to sign up for food stamps and other anti-poverty programs. All of the things that once worked so well to stimulate the U.S. economy seem to be doing next to nothing here in 2010, and the American people are becoming increasingly frustrated by economic problems that just keep getting worse.
Once upon a time, a big drop in mortgage rates would get Americans running out to buy homes in big numbers. But that is just not happening this time.
As you can see from the chart below, mortgage rates are at ridiculously low levels right now. The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.32 percent this week. That is the lowest it has ever been since Freddie Mac began tracking mortgage rates back in 1971.
These low rates have motivated millions of Americans to refinance their existing home loans, but sales of new and existing loans remain at record low levels. In fact, the number of Americans refinancing their homes is now at its highest level since May 2009, but the U.S. housing crisis just continues to get worse. Despite these record low mortgage rates, existing home sales declined 27 percent during the month of July and new homes sales dropped to the lowest level ever recorded in July.
So if Americans are not buying houses when mortgage rates are this ridiculously low, what in the world is going to cause a turnaround in the U.S. housing market?
The Federal Reserve has sure been trying to do what it can to resuscitate the U.S. economy. For decades, a drop in the federal funds rate could always be counted on to give the economy a jump start. But the Fed has dropped the federal funds rate almost to zero for quite some time now and it has done next to nothing to get things moving again.
So is the Federal Reserve out of ammunition? Well, let’s just say that they have used up all of their “best” ammunition. The Fed has been telling us since March 2009 that the federal funds rate will remain between zero and 25 basis points “for an extended period” of time, but the U.S. economy doesn’t seem to care.
Of course Ben Bernanke insists that the Fed is not out of ammunition and that everything is going to be okay, but at this point there is just not a lot left of Bernanke’s fading credibility.
The U.S. government tried to do their best to help the economy by passing stimulus bill after stimulus bill, but it just has not helped much. The government spent hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars on some of the most wasteful things imaginable, and while the massive injection of cash may have helped temporarily stabilize the economy, it has not brought about the “recovery” that our politicians were hoping for.
Now the pendulum has swung the other way in Congress and there is very little appetite for more economic stimulus spending. But if the economy was not recovering when the government was throwing giant piles of money at it, what is going to happen as the economic stimulus totally dries up?
Already there are signs that the U.S. economy is in big, big trouble. General Motors announced this week that U.S. sales in August fell 24.9% to 185,176 vehicles from 246,479 vehicles in August 2009.
But don’t let up and down sales reports fool you. One month they may be down and the next month they may be up a bit. The important thing is to keep your eyes on the truly disturbing long-term trends.
Thanks to the nightmarish U.S. trade deficit, far more wealth leaves the United States each month than enters it. That means that the United States is getting significantly poorer each month. As I noted yesterday, the United States spends approximately $3.90 on Chinese goods for every $1 that the Chinese spend on goods from the United States. That is not sustainable and China is going to continue to bleed us dry for as long as we allow it to continue.
In addition, the United States continues to go into more debt every single month. Each month the U.S. national debt gets bigger, state governments go into more debt and local governments go into more debt.
So what we have is a nation that is getting poorer and that is going into more debt month after month after month.
We are on the road to economic hell, and the American people don’t even realize it because things are still relatively good – at least for now.
But as the economy continues to unravel, is there anything that the folks over at the Federal Reserve can do?
Well, yes there is. It is called “quantitative easing” and the Fed has already indicated that they are going to start doing it again. Essentially, quantitative easing is when the Federal Reserve creates money out of thin air and starts buying things like U.S. Treasuries, mortgage-backed securities and corporate debt.
But isn’t there a good chance that this could cause inflation?
But “Helicopter Ben Bernanke” seems determined to live up to his nickname. Anyone who thinks that Bernanke is going to just sit there and do nothing is delusional. At some point he is going to fire up his helicopter and start showering the economy with money.
And the reality is that feeding massive quantities into the economy will create more economic activity. However, it will also come with a price.
Someday soon, you may wake up to newspaper headlines that declare that our economy is growing at a 10% annual rate, but what they won’t tell you is that the real rate of inflation will be running about 15 or 20 percent at the same time. In fact, the U.S. government will probably try to convince us that the “official” rate of inflation is only about 5 or 6 percent.
The cold, hard truth is that the U.S. economy is going to continue to get worse. Whether it will be a deflationary decline or an inflationary decline depends on the boys over at the Fed. But it is going to be a decline.
Meanwhile, millions of American families are hanging on by their fingernails and are hoping in vain for the great economic recovery which is never going to come.
Living Beyond Our Means: 3 Charts That Prove That We Are In The Biggest Debt Bubble In The History Of The World
Do you want to see something truly frightening? Just check out the 3 charts posted further down in this article. These charts prove that we are now in the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world. As Americans have enjoyed an incredibly wonderful standard of living over the past three decades, most of them have believed that it was because we are the wealthiest, most prosperous nation on the planet with economic and financial systems that are second to none. But that is not even close to accurate. The reason why we have had an almost unbelievably high standard of living over the past three decades is because we have piled up the biggest mountains of debt in the history of the world. Once upon a time the United States was the wealthiest country on the planet, but all of that prosperity was not good enough for us. So we started borrowing and borrowing and borrowing and we have now been living beyond our means for so long that we consider it to be completely normal.
We have been robbing future generations blind for so long that it doesn’t even seem to bother most people anymore. We have become accustomed to living in debt. We go into massive amounts of debt to get an education, we go into massive amounts of debt to buy a home, we go into massive amounts of debt to buy our cars, and we even pile up debt to buy holiday gifts and to purchase groceries.
Just check out the chart posted below. It shows the total credit market debt owed in the United States. In other words, it is a measure of what everyone owes (government, businesses and consumers).
30 years ago, total credit market debt owed was less than 5 trillion dollars. Today, it is over 50 trillion dollars. Total credit market debt is now at a level equivalent to about 360 percent of GDP. This is what has been fueling the great era of “economic prosperity” that we have been experiencing….
So what is the answer to this problem?
The truth is that there is not an easy answer under our current system. The only way that the U.S. economy continues to “grow” is if the debt bubble continues to “expand”.
If our leaders allowed the debt bubble to “pop” and the U.S. economy went into a deleveraging cycle, it would mean that we would start living far below our means for an extended period of time and it would spawn a deflationary depression that would make the Great Depression look like a Sunday picnic.
Most Americans are in no mood to take that kind of hard medicine.
Do you really think that the American people are going to vote in politicians who tell them that it is time to live below our means and that we are going to have to experience a standard of living far below what our parents experienced in order to pay for all the debt that they racked up?
No, that is clearly a dog that isn’t going to hunt.
The American people want to hear that better times are ahead.
One way to give the American people “better times”, for the short-term at least, is to crank the debt spiral back up.
By introducing another huge flood of paper money into the economy, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government are hoping that banks will start lending again and that U.S. consumers will start going into more debt again. Already, as you can see from the chart below, U.S. household debt has started to sink just a little bit. But considering the fact that approximately 70 percent of our GDP is generated by U.S. consumer spending, that is not good news for “economic growth” statistics.
Three decades of “economic expansion” have been fueled by consumer debt that has spiralled completely out of control. Over the past 30 years, total U.S. household debt has gone from less than 2 trillion dollars to almost 14 trillion dollars….
So where did the housing bubble come from? It came from Americans going into insane amounts of debt that they could not afford. The truth is that only the top 5 percent of all U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
Not only that, but Americans are going into staggering amounts of debt in order to pay for their educations. Total student loan debt in the United States is climbing at a rate of approximately $2,853.88 per second, and today Americans owe an all-time record of more than $849 billion on student loans, which is actually more than the total amount that Americans owe on their credit cards.
The truth is that American families are stretched thinner financially than they ever have been in the post-World War 2 era. According to a poll taken last year, 61 percent of Americans “always or usually” live paycheck to paycheck. That was up significantly from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.
Many Americans have come to the absolute breaking point. 1.41 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009 – a 32 percent increase over 2008.
But remember, approximately 70 percent of our GDP is generated by U.S. consumer spending, so without more consumer spending there won’t be more economic growth.
So, instead of Obama and the Federal Reserve encouraging Americans to get out of debt and to save money, they are trying to get the American people to spend even more money and to go into even more debt because they desperately need positive “economic growth” figures.
The worst offender of all when it comes to debt, of course, is the U.S. federal government. Over the last 30 years, the U.S. national debt has gone from about 1 trillion dollars to almost 14 trillion dollars….
This is the largest single debt in the history of the world.
So just how big is one trillion dollars?
If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.
Yet somehow the U.S. government has accumulated a debt that is well over 13 trillion dollars.
Unfortunately, it keeps getting worse month after month after month.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the U.S. national debt is rapidly closing in on 14 trillion dollars and and will climb to an estimated $19.6 trillion by 2015.
Should we all throw a big party when it crosses the 20 trillion dollar mark?
I can just hear the theme song now….
“I’m going to party like I’m 19.99 trillion in debt!”
But the cold, hard reality is that we are in far, far more trouble than what the official government numbers tell us.
In a recent article, Boston University economics professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff analyzed the financial condition of the U.S. government, and he summarized the horror we are facing by making the following statement….
“Let’s get real. The U.S. is bankrupt.”
After carefully going over Congressional Budget Office data, Kotlikoff came to the conclusion that the U.S. government is now facing a “fiscal gap” of $202 trillion dollars.
Now how in the world did that happen?
Well, it turns out that we have made promises to future generations that we cannot possibly even come close to keeping.
Social Security and Medicare are fiscal nightmares that are far more immense than anything that U.S. government has ever faced before.
According to an official U.S. government report, rapidly growing interest costs on the U.S. national debt together with spending on major entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare will absorb approximately 92 cents of every dollar of federal revenue by the year 2019. That is before a single penny is spent on anything else.
That is just 9 years away.
When people speak of the financial situation of the U.S. government being “unsustainable”, they aren’t kidding around.
The truth is that the U.S. government has been running gigantic Ponzi schemes which are about to collapse.
Take the Social Security shell game for example. Back in 1950, each retiree’s Social Security benefit was paid for by approximately 16 workers. Today, each retiree’s Social Security benefit is paid for by approximately 3.3 workers. By 2025, it is projected that there will be approximately two workers for each retiree.
So exactly how is that supposed to work?
For much more on the coming Social Security nightmare, please see an article that I posted earlier this year: 22 Statistics About America’s Coming Pension Crisis That Will Make You Lose Sleep At Night.
Sadly, Professor Kotlikoff is not exaggerating in the least when he proclaims that the U.S. government is bankrupt.
At our current pace, the Congressional Budget Office is projecting that U.S. government public debt will hit 716 percent of GDP by the year 2080.
Public debt at a level of 100 percent of GDP is supposed to be an absolute nightmare scenario.
Needless to say, the whole thing is going to come crashing down long, long before we ever get to 2080.
We have been living far, far beyond our means for decades, and it has been the greatest party in the history of the world.
But it is time to turn out the lights because the party is over.
22 Statistics About America’s Coming Pension Crisis That Will Make You Lose Sleep At Night
As the first of the 80 million Baby Boomers have begun to retire, it has become increasingly apparent that the United States is facing a pension crisis of unprecedented magnitude. State and local government pension plans are woefully underfunded, dozens of large corporate pension plans either have collapsed or are on the verge of collapsing, Social Security is a complete and total financial disaster and about half of all Americans essentially have nothing saved up for retirement. So yes, to say that we are facing a retirement crisis would be a tremendous understatement. There is simply no way that we can keep all of the financial promises that we have made to the Baby Boomer generation. Unfortunately, the crumbling U.S. economy simply cannot support the comfortable retirement of tens of millions of elderly Americans any longer. The truth is that we are all going to have to start fundamentally changing the way that we think about our golden years.
Once upon a time, you could count on getting a big, fat pension if you put 30 years into a job. But now pension plans everywhere are failing. State and local governments are cutting back and are raising retirement ages. A majority of Americans have even lost faith in the Social Security system, which was supposed to be the most secure of them all.
The reality is that we are moving into a time when there is not going to be such a thing as “financial security” as we have known it in the past. Things have fundamentally changed, and we are all going to have to struggle to stay above water in the economic nightmare that is coming.
Part of the reason we have such a gigantic economic mess on the way is because we have promised vastly more than we can deliver to future retirees. When you closely examine the numbers, it quickly becomes clear that a financial tsunami is about to hit us that is going to be so devastating that it will change everything that we know about retirement.
The following are 22 statistics about America’s coming pension crisis that will make you lose sleep at night….
Private Pension Plans And Retirement Funds
1 – One recent study found that America’s 100 largest corporate pension plans were underfunded by $217 billion at the end of 2008.
2 – Approximately half of all workers in the United States have less than $2000 saved up for retirement.
3 – According to one recent survey, 36 percent of Americans say that they don’t contribute anything at all to retirement savings.
4 – The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation says that the number of pensions at risk inside failing companies more than tripled during the recession.
5 – According to another recent survey, 24% of U.S. workers admit that they have postponed their planned retirement age at least once during the past year.
State And Local Government Pensions
6– Pension consultant Girard Miller recently told California’s Little Hoover Commission that state and local government bodies in the state of California have $325 billion in combined unfunded pension liabilities. When you break that down, it comes to $22,000 for every single working adult in California.
7 – According to a recent report from Stanford University, California’s three biggest pension funds are as much as $500 billion short of meeting future retiree benefit obligations.
8 – In New Jersey, the governor has proposed not making the state’s entire $3 billion contribution to its pension funds because of the state’s $11 billion budget deficit.
9 – It has been reported that the $33.7 billion Illinois Teachers Retirement System is 61% underfunded and is on the verge of total collapse.
10 – The state of Illinois recently raised its retirement age to 67 and capped the salary on which public pensions are figured.
11 – The state of Virginia is requiring employees to pay into the state pension fund for the first time ever.
12 – In New York City, annual pension contributions have increased sixfold in the past decade alone and are now so large that they would be able to finance entire new police and fire departments.
13– Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago and Joshua D. Rauh of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management recently calculated the combined pension liability for all 50 U.S. states. What they found was that the 50 states are collectively facing $5.17 trillion in pension obligations, but they only have $1.94 trillion set aside in state pension funds. That is a difference of 3.2 trillion dollars.
14 – According to one recently conducted poll, 6 out of every 10 non-retirees in the United States believe that the Social Security system will not be able to pay them benefits when they stop working.
15 – A very large percentage of the federal budget is made up of entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare that cannot be reduced without a change in the law. Approximately 57 percent of Barack Obama’s 3.8 trillion dollar budget for 2011 consists of direct payments to individual Americans or is money that is spent on their behalf.
16 – 35% of Americans over the age of 65 rely almost entirely on Social Security payments alone.
17 – According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Social Security system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes in 2010. That was not supposed to happen until at least 2016. The Social Security deficits are projected to get increasingly worse in the years ahead.
18 – 56 percent of current retirees believe that the U.S. government will eventually cut their Social Security benefits.
19 – In 1950, each retiree’s Social Security benefit was paid for by 16 U.S. workers. In 2010, each retiree’s Social Security benefit is paid for by approximately 3.3 U.S. workers. By 2025, it is projected that there will be approximately two U.S. workers for each retiree.
20 – The shortfall in entitlement programs in the years ahead is mind blowing. The present value of projected scheduled benefits surpasses earmarked revenues for entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare by about 46 trillion dollars over the next 75 years.
21 – According to a recent U.S. government report, soaring interest costs on the U.S. national debt plus rapidly escalating spending on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare will absorb approximately 92 cents of every single dollar of federal revenue by the year 2019. That is before a single dollar is spent on anything else.
22 – Right now, interest on the U.S. national debt and spending on entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare is somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 percent of GDP. By 2080, those combined expenditures are projected to eat up approximately 50 percent of GDP.
Locust: I smell the distinct smell of burning flesh, that’s welfare/entitlement flesh. smells good, can’t wait. Let the mud’s riot when their checks stop coming, I have plenty of ammo.