Are You Prepared For The Coming Economic Collapse And The Next Great Depression?
Not So Fast On That Whole Economic Recovery Thing
Not so fast. Those that are publicly declaring that an economic recovery has arrived are ignoring a whole host of numbers that indicate that the U.S. economy is in absolutely horrendous shape. The truth is that the health of an economy should not be measured by how well the stock market is doing. Rather, the truth health of an economy should be evaluated by looking at numbers for things like jobs, housing, poverty and debt. Some of the latest economic statistics indicate that unemployment is getting a little bit worse, that the housing market continues to deteriorate, that poverty in America continues to soar and that our debt problem is worse than ever. If we were truly experiencing the kind of economic recovery that the United States has experienced after every other post-World War II recession we would see a sharp improvement across the board in most of our economic statistics. But that simply is not happening. Sadly, this is about as much of an “economic recovery” as we are going to get because soon the economy will be getting much worse. So enjoy this period of relative stability while you can.
The Obama administration would have us believe that unemployment in the United States has declined, but the truth is that the percentage of working age Americans that are employed has stayed very, very flat for more than two years and now there are some measures of unemployment that are actually getting worse.
For example, according to Gallup the unemployment rate in the United States has risen from 8.5% in December to 8.6% in January to 9.1% in February. The Obama administration would have us believe that it is actually going the other direction.
Initial unemployment claims are rising again. For the week ending March 3rd, they increased by 8,000 over the previous week to 362,000. This is not the kind of good news that people were hoping for.
What the U.S. economy could really use are millions of good jobs. But those are being shipped out of the country at a staggering pace.
Right now there are millions of Americans in their prime working years that are sitting at home wondering what to do with their lives. The average duration of unemployment in the United States continues to hover near a record high, and if we were truly experiencing an economic recovery it should have been falling by now.
But a lot of Americans have bought into the propaganda about an economic recovery and they are out running up huge amounts of debt once again. In January, consumer credit increased by much more than expected. The following is from a recent Reuters report….
Nonrevolving credit, which includes auto loans as well as student loans made by the government, rose $20.723 billion during the month. That was the biggest increase in dollar terms since November 2001, when credit was surging in the wake of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
Don’t fall into the trap of debt slavery. During the last recession millions of Americans lost their homes and most of what they owned because they got overextended.
Don’t do it.
The U.S. housing market continues to deeply struggle as well. If we were really in an economic recovery housing would be bouncing back. But that is not happening. Just consider the following facts….
*The number of new homes sold in the United States continues to hover near a record low.
*U.S. home prices in the 4th quarter of 2011 were four percent lower than they were during the 4th quarter of 2010.
*According to CoreLogic, 22.8 percent of all homes with a mortgage in the United States were in negative equity as of the end of the 4th quarter of 2011. That was an increase from 22.1 percent in the third quarter.
Why are things still getting worse for the U.S housing market?
That is a really good question.
We should have seen some improvement by now.
But it isn’t happening.
Also, poverty in America continues to explode.
For example, the number of Americans on food stamps has increased to 46.5 million – a brand new all-time record.
If we really were in an economic recovery, wouldn’t that number be going down?
We should be thankful that the U.S. economy is not declining as rapidly as it was during 2008 and 2009. But what we are experiencing right now is not an economic recovery. It is simply just a bubble of false hope.
The big problem is that our nation is covered in an ocean of constantly expanding debt.
U.S. consumers are drowning in debt, U.S. businesses have pushed debt levels to the red line, and the U.S. financial system is massively overleveraged.
Of course government debt is our biggest debt problem of all.
All over the nation, state and local governments are on the verge of financial ruin.
If we were in the middle of an economic recovery, so many states would not be in crisis mode. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times declared that “California could run out of cash in March“. As the economy continues to crumble we are going to hear a lot more of this kind of thing.
A lot of local governments around the nation are on the verge of total financial collapse. Stockton, California has announced that they will be defaulting on some debt payments, and Suffolk County in New York recently declared a fiscal emergency after discovering that it would rack up more than 500 million dollars of debt between 2011 and 2013.
Keep your eyes open for more news items like this in the months ahead.
Of course the biggest problem of all is the U.S. national debt and it continues to rapidly get worse.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. government had a budget deficit of 229 billion dollars in the month of February. That is the worst one month budget deficit in the history of the United States.
The Congressional Budget Office also says that the U.S. government is now borrowing 42 cents of every single dollar that it spends.
The U.S. national debt has gotten more than 59 times larger since 1950.
The U.S. national debt is now more than 22 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter became president.
Are there any words in the English language that are strong enough to describe how foolish we have been?
Of course we won’t be able to accumulate so much debt indefinitely. At some point the trillion dollar deficits will stop and our false prosperity will disappear.
If you want to get an idea of what happens then, just take a look at Greece.
But Barack Obama and most members of the U.S. Congress don’t really care about what they are doing to our future.
What they care about is winning the next election so that they can continue living their fabulous lives.
Barack Obama is supposed to be taking care of the American people, but instead he has been very busy taking care of the people who helped him get elected. Politics in America is all about money. Just check out the following very short excerpt from a recent article in the Washington Post….
More than half of Obama’s 47 biggest fundraisers, those who collected at least $500,000 for his campaign, have been given administration jobs. Nine more have been appointed to presidential boards and committees.
At least 24 Obama bundlers were given posts as foreign ambassadors, including in Finland, Australia, Portugal and Luxembourg. Among them is Don Beyer, a former Virginia lieutenant governor who serves as ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Washington D.C. is deeply corrupt and if you are waiting for our politicians to fix our problems you are going to be deeply disappointed.
The federal government is not going to save you.
Our politicians are not going to save you.
You better figure out how you are going to take care of yourself and your family in the years ahead because this is about as good as things are going to get.
This “economic recovery” is about to end and more pain is about to begin.
Greece Has Defaulted – Which Country In Europe Is Next?
Well, it is official. The restructuring deal between Greece and private investors has been pushed through and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association has ruled that this is a credit event which will trigger credit-default swap contracts. The ISDA is saying that there are approximately $3.2 billion in credit-default swap contracts on Greek debt outstanding, and most analysts expect that the global financial system will be able to absorb these losses. But still, 3.2 billion dollars is nothing to scoff at, and some of these financial institutions that wrote a lot of these contracts on Greek debt are going to be hurting. This deal with private investors may have “rescued” Greece for the moment, but the consequences of this deal are going to be felt for years to come. For example, now that Greece has gotten a sweet “haircut” from private investors, politicians in Portugal, Italy, Spain and other European nations are going to wonder why they shouldn’t get some “debt forgiveness” too. Also, private investors are almost certainly going to be less likely to want to loan money to European nations from now on. If they will be required to take a massive haircuts at some point, then why in the world would they want to lend huge amounts of money to European governments at super low interest rates? It simply does not make sense. Now that Greece has defaulted, the whole game is going to change. This is just the beginning.
The “restructuring deal” was approved by approximately 84 percent of all Greek bondholders, but the key to triggering the payouts on the credit-default swaps was the fact that Greece decided to activate the “collective action clauses” which had been retroactively inserted into these bonds. These collective action clauses force most of the rest of the bondholders to go along with this restructuring deal.
A recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard explained why so many people were upset about these “collective action clauses”….
The Greek parliament’s retroactive law last month to insert collective action clauses (CACs) into its bonds to coerce creditor hold-outs has added a fresh twist. These CAC’s are likely to be activated over coming days. Use of retroactive laws to change contracts is anathema in credit markets.
If a government can go in and retroactively change the terms of a bond just before it is ready to default, then why should private investors invest in them?
That is a very good question.
But for now the buck has been passed on to those that issued the credit-default swaps. As mentioned above, the ISDA says that there are approximately $3.2 billion in Greek credit-default swaps that will need to be paid out.
However, that number assumes that a lot of hedges and offsetting swaps cancel each other out. When you just look at the raw total of swaps outstanding, the number is much, much higher. The following is from a recent article in The Huffington Post….
If you remove all hedges and offsetting swaps, there’s about $70 billion in default-insurance exposure to Greece out there, which is a little bit bigger pill for the banking system to swallow. Is it possible that some banks won’t be able to pay on their default policies? We’ll find out.
Yes, indeed. We will find out very soon.
If some counterparties are unable to pay we could soon see some big problems cascade through the financial system.
But even with this new restructuring deal with private investors, Greece is still in really bad shape.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters recently that it “would be a big mistake to think we are out of the woods”.
Even with this new deal, Greek debt is still projected to be only reduced to 120 percent of GDP by the year 2020. And that number relies on projections that are almost unbelievably optimistic.
In addition, there are still a whole host of very strict conditions that the Greek government must meet in order to continue getting bailout money.
Also, the upcoming Greek elections in just a few weeks could bring this entire process to an end in just a single day.
So the crisis in Greece is a long way from over.
The Greek economy has been in recession for five years in a row and it continues to shrink at a frightening pace. Greek GDP was 7.5 percent smaller during the 4th quarter of 2011 than it was during the 4th quarter of 2010.
Unemployment in Greece also continues to get worse.
Young people are getting hit the hardest. The youth unemployment rate in Greece is up to an all-time record of 51.1 percent.
The suicide rate in Greece is also at an all-time record high.
Unfortunately, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for Greece at this point. The latest round of austerity measures that are now being implemented will slow the economy down even more.
Sadly, several other countries in Europe are going down the exact same road that Greece has gone.
Investors all over the globe are wondering which one will be the “next Greece”.
Some believe that it will be Portugal. The following is from a recent article in The Telegraph….
“The rule of law has been treated with contempt,” said Marc Ostwald from Monument Securities. “This will lead to litigation for the next ten years. It has become a massive impediment for long-term investors, and people will now be very wary about Portugal.”
Right now, the combination of all public and private debt in Portugal comes to a grand total of 360 percent of GDP.
In Greece, the combined total of all public and private debt is about 100 percentage points less than that.
So yes, Portugal is heading for a world of hurt. The following is more about Portugal from the recent Telegraph article mentioned above….
Citigroup expects the economy to contract by 5.7pc this year, warning that bondholders may face a 50pc haircut by the end of the year. Portugal’s €78bn loan package from the EU-IMF Troika is already large enough to crowd out private creditors, reducing them to ever more junior status.
So why should anyone invest in Portuguese debt at this point?
Or Italian debt?
Or Spanish debt?
Or any European debt at all?
The truth is that the European financial system is a house of cards that could come crashing down at any time.
German economist Hans-Werner Sinn is even convinced that the European Central Bank itself could collapse.
There is a Der Spiegel article that everyone out there should read. It is entitled “Euro-Zone Central Bank System Massively Imbalanced“. It is quite technical, but if this German economist is correct, the implications are staggering.
The following is from the first paragraph of the article….
More than a year ago, German economist Hans-Werner Sinn discovered a gigantic risk on the balance sheets of Germany’s central bank. Were the euro zone to collapse, Bundesbank losses could be half a trillion euros — more than one-and-a-half times the size of the country’s annual budget.
So no, the European debt crisis is not over.
It is just getting warmed up.
Get ready for a wild ride.
15 Potentially Massive Threats To The U.S. Economy Over The Next 12 Months
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable, and the potential for an event that could cause “sudden change” to the U.S. economy is greater than ever. There are dozens of potentially massive threats that could easily push the U.S. economy over the edge during the next 12 months. A war in the Middle East, a financial collapse in Europe, a major derivatives crisis or a horrific natural disaster could all change our economic situation very rapidly. Most of the time I write about the long-term economic trends that are slowly but surely ripping the U.S. economy to pieces, but the truth is that just a single really bad “black swan event” over the next 12 months could accelerate our economic problems dramatically. If oil was cut off from the Middle East or a really bad natural disaster suddenly destroyed a major U.S. city, the U.S. economy would be thrown into a state of chaos. Considering how bad the U.S. economy is currently performing, it would be easy to see how a major “shock to the system” could push us into the “next Great Depression” very easily. Let us hope that none of these things actually happen over the next 12 months, but let us also understand that we live in a world that has become extremely chaotic and extremely unstable.
In the list below, you will find some “sudden change” events that are somewhat likely and some that are quite unlikely. I have tried to include a broad range of potential “black swan events”, but there are certainly dozens more massive threats that could potentially be listed.
The following are 15 potentially massive threats to the U.S. economy over the next 12 months….
#1 War With Syria – U.S. Senator John McCain is now publicly calling for U.S. airstrikes against Syria. A military conflict with Syria becomes more likely with each passing day.
#2 War With Iran – A war in the Middle East involving Iran could literally erupt at any time. The following is from a Reuters news report that was issued on Monday….
President Barack Obama appealed to Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to give sanctions time to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but the Israeli prime minister offered no sign of backing away from possible military action, saying his country must be the “master of its fate.”
#3 A Disorderly Greek Debt Default – Many reporters in Europe seem to think that this is becoming increasingly likely. So what would a disorderly Greek debt default mean for the global financial system? A leaked report that was authored by the Institute of International Finance says that a disorderly Greek debt default would have some very serious consequences. You can read the full text of that leaked report right here.
#4 An Economic Collapse In Spain – Spain has one of the largest economies in Europe and it is rapidly becoming a basket case. As I have written about previously, the unemployment rate in Spain has hit 19.9 percent, and the unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 is up to 49.9 percent. Unfortunately, the situation in Spain continues to deteriorate. The following is from a recent article by Marc Chandler….
However, the devolution in Spain is particularly troubling. The new fiscal compact had just been signed last week, which includes somewhat more rigorous fiscal rule and enforcement, when Spain’s PM Rajoy revealed that this year’s deficit would come in around 5.8 percent of GDP rather the 4.4 percent target. This of course follows last year’s 8.5 percent overshoot of the 6 percent target.
The problem that for Spain is that the 4.4 percent target was based on forecasts for more than 2 percent growth this year. However, in late February, the EU cuts its forecast to a 1 percent contraction. This still seems optimistic. The IMF forecasts a 1.7 percent contraction, which the Spanish government now accepts.
#5 The Price Of Gasoline – The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States has risen for 27 days in a row and is now up to $3.77. Virtually all forms of economic activity are affected by the price of gasoline, and if the price of gas keeps going up it is eventually going to have dramatic consequences for the U.S. economy.
#6 The Student Loan Debt Bubble – Just like we saw with the housing bubble, the student loan debt bubble just continues to grow and grow and grow. At some point the nearly 1 trillion dollar bubble is going to burst. What effect will it have on our financial system when that finally happens?
#7 State And Local Government Debt Crisis – It is being reported that California is running out of cash again and there are cities all over the country that are on the verge of bankruptcy. Could we see a significant municipal bond crisis in the next 12 months?
#8 The Collapse Of A Major U.S. Bank – A number of top U.S. banks are looking increasingly shaky. In a recent article, David Trainer explained why he has such serious concerns about Bank of America right now….
In my opinion, there are four actions taken by financial services that signal the company is headed to serious trouble.
1. Management shake-up and major layoffs – lots of layoffs over the past year
2. Exploiting accounting rules to boost earnings – SFAS 159
3. Drawing down reserves to boost earnings: to the tune of $13.3 billion in 2011 and 2012
4. Bilking customers with new fees: tried it before and trying it again
Bank of America has taken all four steps.
#9 A Derivatives Crisis – The International Swaps and Derivatives Association recently ruled that the Greek debt deal will not trigger payouts on credit default swaps. This is seriously shaking confidence in the global market for derivatives. But the global financial system simply cannot afford a major derivatives crisis.
Estimates of the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market range from $600 trillion all the way up to $1.5 quadrillion. The notional value of all derivatives held by Bank of America is approximately $75 trillion. JPMorgan Chase is holding derivatives with a notional value of approximately $79 trillion.
When the derivatives bubble finally bursts it is going to be a financial horror show unlike anything we have ever seen.
#10 The Fall Of The Japanese Economy – The Japanese economy shrank at a 2.3 percent rate during the fourth quarter of 2011. Japan has a debt to GDP ratio of over 200 percent and a major debt crisis involving Japan could erupt at any time.
#11 A “Solar Megastorm” – Scientists tell us that there is a “1 in 8 chance” that a “solar megastorm” will hit the earth by 2014. A recent Daily Mail article detailed what some of the consequences of such an event would be….
‘We live in a cyber cocoon enveloping the Earth. Imagine what the consequences might be,’ Daniel Baker, of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics told National Geographic when asked about a potential ‘megastorm’.
‘Every time you purchase a gallon of gas with your credit card, that’s a satellite transaction.
‘Imagine large cities without power for a week, a month, or a year. The losses could be $1 to $2 trillion, and the effects could be felt for years.
#13 Tornado Damage To Major U.S. Cities – Last year, the U.S. experienced one of the worst tornado seasons of all time. This year, we have already seen the worst tornado outbreak ever recorded in the United States in the month of March. A couple of towns in Indiana were completely wiped out by that outbreak. So what should we expect when we get to the heart of tornado season this year?
#14 Severe Drought In The United States – Last summer was one of the driest summers on record in the United States, and in many areas there is simply not enough water available for farmers this year. Some are even projecting that we could see “dust bowl conditions” return to some areas of the country eventually.
#15 An Asteroid Strike In 2013 – Although scientists tell us that the probability is extremely low, the truth is that there is a slight chance that a sizeable asteroid could hit the earth in February 2013. The asteroid is estimated to be between 60 and 100 meters wide, and it is projected to pass by our planet “at a distance of under 27,000 km“. If it did hit us (and scientists say that the odds of that happening are very low) it would potentially be as serious an event as the Tunguska Event in Siberia in 1908. Mac Slavo of shtfplan.com recently described how awesome the Tunguska Event really was….
On June 30, 1908 an incoming meteor exploded approximately 5 miles above Siberia. The force of the air burst explosion, estimated at between 15 and 30 megatons, or about 1000 times bigger than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, was so powerful that it annihilated everything in an 830 square mile area, and reports suggest that that explosion was heard up to 1000 miles away. Because of the remoteness of the impact zone, the Tunguska Event over Siberia had very little effect on the human population in the region, but the destruction of some 80 million trees in the area shows just how powerful a blast was created.
Of course there are so many other “sudden change” events that could potentially happen – a terror event in a major U.S. city, a deadly pandemic, an EMP attack, cyberterrorism or a major political scandal could all possibly cause a stock market crash and an economic collapse in the United States.
In the world that we are living in today, you just never know what is going to happen.
So what are all of you concerned about over the next 12 months?
Do you see the potential for some “black swan events” to happen?
Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….