Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Monday, 31 January 2011

Nearly 11 Percent of US Houses Empty - There were 18.4 million vacant homes in the U.S. in Q4 '10 -

Nearly 11 Percent of US Houses Empty - There were 18.4 million vacant homes in the U.S. in Q4 '10 - 

I usually find the quarterly homeowner vacancy and homeownership report from Census pretty lackluster, but the latest one released this morning was anything but.

America's home ownership rate, after holding steady for a while, took a pretty big plunge in Q4, from 66.9 percent to 66.5 percent. That's down from the 2004 peak of 69.2 percent and the lowest level since 1998.
Homeownership is falling at an alarming pace, despite the fact that home prices have fallen, affordability is much improved and inventories of new and existing homes are still running quite high.
Bargains abound, but few are interested or eligible to take advantage.
More concerning than the home ownership rate is the vacancy rate. The Census tables don't tell the entire story, but they tell a lot of it. Of the nearly 131 million housing units in this country, 112.5 million are occupied. 74.8 million are owned, and that's only dropped by about 30 thousand in the past year. 38 million are rented, but that's up by over a million year over year. That means more new households are choosing to rent.
Now to vacancies. There were 18.4 million vacant homes in the U.S. in Q4 '10 (11 percent of all housing units vacant all year round), which is actually an improvement of 427,000 from a year ago, but not for the reasons you'd think.
The number of vacant homes for rent fell by 493 thousand, as rental demand rose. 471,000 homes are listed as "Held off Market" about half for temporary use, but the other half are likely foreclosures. And no, the shadow inventory isn't just 200,000, it's far higher than that.

  • Slideshow: 10 U.S. Cities Where Renting Beats Buying

  • So think about it. Eleven percent of the houses in America are empty. This as builders start to get more bullish, and renting apartments becomes ever more popular. Vacancies in the apartment sector have been falling steadily and dramatically, why? Because we're still recovering emotionally from the toll of the housing crash.
    Younger Americans have seen what home ownership has done to their friends and families, and many want no part of it. Credit has become very nearly elitist. Home prices, whatever your particular data provider preference might be, are still falling.
    Banks, Fannie [FNM  0.487    -0.003  (-0.61%)   ] and Freddie [FRE  3.26    0.01 (+0.31%)   ] are holding on to hundreds of thousands of properties, and we don't know exactly when or how they'll sell them.

    China's state broadcaster CCTV Tries to Pass Off a scene from the movie "Top Gun" as Real News footage of a Chinese J-10 -

    China's state broadcaster CCTV Tries to Pass Off a scene from the movie "Top Gun" as Real News footage of a Chinese J-10 -

    Sunday, 30 January 2011

    China central bank says Fed easing ineffective and dangerous - may lead to competitive currency depreciation -

    China central bank says Fed easing ineffective and dangerous - may lead to competitive currency depreciation -

    Quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve and other central banks cannot address fundamental economic problems but may lead to excessive global liquidity and competitive currency depreciation, China's central bank said on Sunday.
    In its monetary policy report for the final quarter of 2010, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) also confirmed that it would target 16 percent growth of the broad M2 measure of money supply this year, down from the 19.9 pct growth recorded at the end of 2010.
    The central bank said the Fed's monetary easing was pushing up international commodity prices and asset prices in emerging markets, including China.
    "Quantitative easing policy cannot fundamentally address economic problems, and it may cause excessive liquidity on a global scale as well as risks of competitive currency depreciation," the Chinese central bank said in its 59-page report.
    "It is creating imported inflation and short-term capital inflows, pressuring emerging markets," it said.
    As a result, China needed to work hard to soak up liquidity from foreign exchange inflows in order to minimize the impact on the domestic economy, it added.
    The central bank reiterated that it would keep the yuan basically stable while making the exchange rate regime more flexible.
    The central bank said it would continue to use different tools, including interest rates, bank reserve requirements and open-market operations, to rein in money supply and bank credit growth as a way of handling inflationary pressure.

    Wednesday, 26 January 2011

    Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Slams Greenspan, Bernanke, Geithner, Paulson, Summers, SEC, etc... for Causing Crisis -

    Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Slams Greenspan, Bernanke, Geithner, Paulson, Summers, SEC, etc... for Causing Crisis -

    The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission is releasing its report Thursday.

    The New York Times has a preview of the report, which shows that the Commission will slam the right people for causing the financial crisis.
    Barry Ritholtz gives a good summary of the Times’ article:
    The many causal factors highlighted in the FCIC report:
    • Alan Greenspan’s malfeasance — his refusal to perform his regulatory duties because he did not believe in them — allowed the credit bubble to expand, driving housing prices to dangerously unsustainable levels; Greenspan’s advocacy for financial deregulation was a “pivotal failure to stem the flow of toxic mortgages” and “the prime example” of government negligence;
    • Ben S. Bernanke failed to foresee the crisis;
    • The Bush administration’s “inconsistent response” — saving Bear, but allowing Lehman to crater — “added to the uncertainty and panic in the financial markets.”
    • Bush Treasury secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. wrongly predicted in 2007 that subprime meltdown would be contained.
    • The Clinton White House, including then Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, made a crucial error in “shielding over-the-counter derivatives from regulation [CFMA]. This was “a key turning point in the march toward the financial crisis.”
    • Then NY Fed President, now Treasury secretary Timothy F. Geithner failed to “clamp down on excesses by Citigroup in the lead-up to the crisis;” Further, a month before Lehman’s collapse, Geithner was still in the dark about Lehman’s derivative exposure;
    • Low interest rates brought about by the Fed after the 2001 recession “created increased risks” but were not chiefly to blame, according to the FCIC (I place some more weight on Ultra-low rates than they do);
    • The financial sector spent $2.7 billion on lobbying from 1999 to 2008, while individuals and committees affiliated with the industry made more than $1 billion in campaign contributions. The impact of which an incestuous relationship between bankers and regulators, Congress and bankers, and classic regulatory capture by the industry.
    • The credit-rating agencies “cogs in the wheel of financial destruction.”
    • The Securities and Exchange Commission allowed the 5 biggest banks to ramp up their leverage, hold insufficient capital, and engage in risky practices.
    • Leverage at the nation’s five largest investment banks was wildly excessive: They kept only $1 in capital to cover losses for about every $40 in assets;
    • The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency along with the Office of Thrift Supervision, “federally pre-empted” (blocked) state regulators from reining in lending abuses;
    • The report documents “questionable practices by mortgage lenders and careless betting by banks;”
    • The report portrays the “bumbling incompetence among corporate chieftains” as to the risk and operations of their own firms:
    -Citigroup executives admitting that they paid little attention to the risks associated with mortgage securities.
    -AIG executives were blind to its $79 billion exposure to credit default swaps;
    -Merrill Lynch top managers were surprised when mortgage investments suddenly resulted in billions of dollars in losses;

    I certainly agree with all of these points, and have criticized these same players in the past.

    It should be noted that leading banking analyst Chris Whalen – who I greatly respect –agrees with FCIC Commissioner Peter Wallison (co-director of the American Enterprise Institute’s program on financial policy studies) that Freddie and Fannie were a leading cause for the crisis. This is the minority view of the FCIC.
    Many people – including me – have criticized the FCIC for seeming to sidestep the massive fraud which was a core cause of the crisis. However, the Commission hasindicated that it will make criminal referrals. We’ll have to wait and see if the referrals are for big or small fish.

    Friday, 21 January 2011

    Accounting Tweak Could Save Fed From Losses - significant shift was tucked quietly into the Fed's weekly report -

    Accounting Tweak Could Save Fed From Losses - significant shift was tucked quietly into the Fed's weekly report - 
    Concerns that the Federal Reserve could suffer losses on its massive bond holdings may have driven the central bank to adopt a little-noticed accounting change with huge implications: it makes insolvency much less likely. 

    The significant shift was tucked quietly into the Fed's weekly report on its balance sheet and phrased in such technical terms that it was not even reported by financial media when originally announced on Jan. 6.But the new rules have slowly begun to catch the attention of market analysts. Many are at once surprised that the Fed can set its own guidelines, and also relieved that the remote but dangerous possibility that the world's most powerful central bank might need to ask the U.S. Treasury or its member banks for money is now more likely to be averted."Could the Fed go broke? The answer to this question was 'Yes,' but is now 'No,'" said Raymond Stone, managing director at Stone & McCarthy in Princeton, New Jersey. "An accounting methodology change at the central bank will allow the Fed to incur losses, even substantial losses, without eroding its capital. "The change essentially allows the Fed to denote losses by the various regional reserve banks that make up the Fed system as a liability to the Treasury rather than a hit to its capital. It would then simply direct future profits from Fed operations toward that liability.  This enhances transparency by providing clearer, more frequent, snapshots of the central bank's finances, analysts say. The bonus: the number can now turn negative without affecting the central bank's underlying financial condition.  "Any future losses the Fed may incur will now show up as a negative liability as opposed to a reduction in Fed capital, thereby making a negative capital situation technically impossible," said Brian Smedley, a rates strategist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch and a former New York Fed staffer.  "The timing of the change is not coincidental, as politicians and market participants alike have expressed concerns since the announcement (of a second round of asset buys) about the possibility of Fed 'insolvency' in a scenario where interest rates rise significantly," Smedley and his colleague Priya Misra wrote in a research note.  

    Read more - http://www.cnbc.com/id/41198789

    NYT Reports States Looking For Ways To File Bankruptcy, Muni Bondholders To Be GM'ed -

    NYT Reports States Looking For Ways To File Bankruptcy, Muni Bondholders To Be GM'ed -

    A few days ago we reported that Newt Gingrich was pushing for legislation to allow states to file for bankruptcy, "allowing Them To Renege On Pension And Benefit Obligations." As we speculated back then "obviously what this means for equity investors in assorted muni investments is that a complete wipe out is becoming a possibility, as Meredith Whitney's prediction, which everyone was quick to mock and ridicule, is about to come back with a vengeance." Sure enough, this most recent development in the states' path to insolvency was quickly ignored as it was not a dipping mushroom cloud that could be bought. Until tonight: the NYT has just rehashed the post in an article that would not only validate the Whitney thesis if true, but make a Cramer-Bove out of everyone who has been caught on tape in the past two weeks kicking and screaming that there is no chance in hell the carnage predicted by the scourge of Citigroup (and yes, back in 2007 everyone said that Citi could never fail either). From the NYT: "Policy makers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers." Which means that up to $3 trillion in muni debt has a high probability of being GMed, precisely as we predicted: "proponents say some states are so burdened that the only feasible way out may be bankruptcy, giving Illinois, for example, the opportunity to do what General Motors did with the federal government’s aid." Oh, and since all this constitutes an EOD, readers are strongly urged to re-read the primer on what pervasive state bankruptcies will mean for muni CDS (hint: the MCDX is cheap).
    Beyond their short-term budget gaps, some states have deep structural problems, like insolvent pension funds, that are diverting money from essential public services like education and health care. Some members of Congress fear that it is just a matter of time before a state seeks a bailout, say bankruptcy lawyers who have been consulted by Congressional aides.
    But... but... the Paul Krugmans at the CBPP just said that not only do states need more debt, but their pension funds are sure to generate 8% returns. In perpetuity and then some.
    Bankruptcy could permit a state to alter its contractual promises to retirees, which are often protected by state constitutions, and it could provide an alternative to a no-strings bailout. Along with retirees, however, investors in a state’s bonds could suffer, possibly ending up at the back of the line as unsecured creditors.
    So basically, GM? Thank you Steve Rattner.
    House Republicans, and Senators from both parties, have taken an interest in the issue, with nudging from bankruptcy lawyers and a former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, who could be a Republican presidential candidate. It would be difficult to get a bill through Congress, not only because of the constitutional questions and the complexities of bankruptcy law, but also because of fears that even talk of such a law could make the states’ problems worse.

    Lawmakers might decide to stop short of a full-blown bankruptcy proposal and establish instead some sort of oversight panel for distressed states, akin to the Municipal Assistance Corporation, which helped New York City during its fiscal crisis of 1975.

    Still, discussions about something as far-reaching as bankruptcy could give governors and others more leverage in bargaining with unionized public workers.

    “They are readying a massive assault on us,” said Charles M. Loveless, legislative director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We’re taking this very seriously.
    You can read the rest here. It is pretty self-explanatory.
    Fast forward to 2013 when Goldman of American PIMCO Lynch, Jefferies Stanley Tabak, BlackRock Morgan and Citibank of Rangoon all win the mandate to IPO the government's $100 billion stake in the bankrupt state of California, preceded by a 10,000% 5 day market melt up in which every single short share in the world is recalled by State Street. And the official spin by the Palin administration: "this is a huge stamp of approval and confidence by the communist capital markets in the capability of Brian Sack's solitary Bloomberg terminal to manipulate each and every asset price to levels not even Jim Cramer ever thought possible."

    Wednesday, 19 January 2011

    10 Ways In Which China Humiliates The United States -

    10 Ways In Which China Humiliates The United States -

    Rolling out the red carpet, lining Constitution Avenue with Communist flags, and treating unelected Chinese dictator Hu Jintao to lavish White House dinners while he badmouths the U.S. dollar is hard enough to stomach, but there are a plethora of ways in which China is humiliating the United States as the globalists get ready to use China as the vehicle through which to complete the deindustrialization of the decaying American banana republic.
    1) Tainted Chinese food imports are pouring into the United States with wanton disregard for the health impact or threat to the wider food supply. The Washington Post reported on how dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical, frozen catfish laden with banned antibiotics, Scallops and sardines coated with putrefying bacteria and mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides were just some of the items from China that the Food and Drug Administration detained at U.S. ports in one month alone.
    2) Not just food, but also lead-poisoned children’s toys imported from China are flooding the US marketplace. Talking heads in the establishment media like CNBC’s Erin Burnett insist that Americans should shut up about these scandals and accept the fact that their kids will be eating tainted food and playing with lead-poisoned toys, otherwise China might arbitrarily punish the US by re-valuing its currency and pushing up prices in Wal-Mart.
    3) While Hu Jintao and Obama spew rhetoric about two great empires coming together for the common good, China is busy stealing US military secrets. China’s massive military build-up isbased almost entirely on stolen US technology, a recent example being China’s new prototype stealth fighter, which is 10 years ahead of the schedule that US military analysts had predicted. The announcement of the new stealth fighter was a massive humiliation for Obama and Defense Secretary Gates, an intimidating flaunt that forced the Obama administration into ludicrously attempting to play down the significance of the fighter on the eve of Jintao’s state visit.
    4) Computer hackers in Beijing backed by the Chinese government have also stolen highly sensitive information about America’s nuclear weapons research from places like the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Technology and military secrets have also beenopenly transferred to China by successive US administrations as well as transnational American companies.
    5) If China wishes to be America’s great ally, as Jintao constantly claims, then why are Chinese military generals constantly talking about attacking the United States? Speculating on what the response would be if America defended its ally Taiwan, General Zhu Chenghu said that China would launch its arsenal of nuclear missiles at the United States and destroy hundreds of cities. China has also recently unveiled an anti-ship missile which is designed to sink an American aircraft carrier. Admiral Mike Mullen, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admits that China’s military weapons are aimed squarely at the United States.
    6) As the largest holder of US debt, China has the power to lead the dollar like a sheep to slaughter, which is precisely what Hu Jintao signaled earlier this week when he derided the dollar as a “product of the past” and called for its replacement with a new global monetary system based around the Chinese yuan. Indeed, when US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner gave a speech in which he claimed that the US dollar was strong, Chinese onlookers responded by bursting into laughter.
    7) China has been used by the globalists to destroy America’s economic backbone – its manufacturing base. As a result of the expanding trade deficit with China, the US economy lost 2.4 million jobs between 2001 and 2008. The United States has lost a shocking 32 per cent of its manufacturing jobs in this time. Over 42,000 factories have been permanently closed in the US since 2001. Made in America has been replaced by Chinese slave goods sold in Wal-Mart, gleefully consumed by ignorant Americans blissfully unaware of the fact that they are destroying their own children’s future prosperity.
    8: China is buying up US infrastructure at a rapid pace as successive US presidents acquiesce to a fire sale of American assets to the Communist regime at knock down prices. In 2006, Hutchison Whampoa Ltd was given a no-bid contract by the US government to take over radiation detecting security just 65 miles away from Freeport in the Bahamas with no oversight. Hutchison Whampoa is admittedly a holding of the Chinese navy and the People’s Liberation Army. Hutchison Whampoa owns ports all over the world and many charge that the Chinese are using the company to encircle the world in preparation for retaliation to opposition of China’s intended invasion of Taiwan. In 1997 the Communist Chinese government took over the Long Beach Naval Air Base, the only major deep water port that can take large ships on the west coast. In 2000, Hutchinson Whampoa, run by the PLA, took over the Panama Canal and has stationed between 15,000 and 30,000 troops at the facility.
    9) While America is being picked apart by the globalist vultures as part of the west’s enforced post-industrial revolution, China is fast becoming the new global empire, with new GDP estimates showing that China’s economy is now bigger than that of the US in terms of purchasing power. “According to Stanford University economics professor Ed Lazear, if the U.S. economy and the Chinese economy continue to grow at current rates, the average Chinese citizen will be wealthier than the average American citizen in just 30 years,” writes Economic Collapse Blog, which is a startling premise given the fact that hundreds of millions of Chinese people still live in abject poverty. Despite this, the deindustrialization of the United States that has paved the way for the roaring economic growth of the Red Dragon shows no signs of abating.
    10) China is the model state for the new world order. No freedom of speech, no right to assemble, no right to own firearms, a country ruled by unelected dictators that tortures and massacres political dissidents and forcibly aborts the babies of women who dare to challenge the country’s brutal one child policy. China mocks what little semblance of freedom the United States has left, while US presidents consistently offer no more than weak rhetoric when exposing China’s habitual abuse of freedom.

    Friday, 14 January 2011

    20 Shocking New Economic Records That Were Set In 2010 -

    20 Shocking New Economic Records That Were Set In 2010 -

    2010 was quite a year, wasn’t it?  2010 will be remembered for a lot of things, but for those living in the United States, one of the main things that last year will be remembered for is economic decline.  The number of foreclosure filings set a new record, the number of home repossessions set a new record, the number of bankruptcies went up again, the number of Americans that became so discouraged that they simply quit looking for work reached a new all-time high and the number of Americans on food stamps kept setting a brand new record every single month.  Meanwhile, U.S. government debt reached record highs, state government debt reached record highs and local government debt reached record highs.  What a mess!  In fact, even many of the “good” economic records that were set during 2010 were indications of underlying economic weakness.  For example, the price of gold set an all-time record during 2010, but one of the primary reasons for the increase in the price of gold was that the U.S. dollar was rapidly losing value.  Most Americans had been hoping that 2010 would be the beginning of better times, but unfortunately economic conditions just kept getting worse.
    So will things improve in 2011?  That would be nice, but at this point there are not a whole lot of reasons to be optimistic about the economy.  The truth is that we are trapped in a period of long-term economic decline and we are now paying the price for decades of horrible decisions.
    Amazingly, many of our politicians and many in the mainstream media have declared that “the recession is over” and that the U.S. economy is steadily improving now.
    Well, if anyone tries to tell you that the economy got better in 2010, just show them the statistics below.  That should shut them up for a while.

    The following are 20 new economic records that were set during 2010….
    #1 An all-time record of 2.87 million U.S. households received a foreclosure filing in 2010.
    #2 The number of homes that were actually repossessed reached the 1 million markfor the first time ever during 2010.
    #3 The price of gold moved above $1400 an ounce for the first time ever during 2010.
    #4 According to the American Bankruptcy Institute, approximately 1.53 millionconsumer bankruptcy petitions were filed in 2010, which was up 9 percent from 1.41 million in 2009.  This was the highest number of personal bankruptcies we have seen since the U.S. Congress substantially tightened U.S. bankruptcy law several years ago.
    #5 At one point during 2010, the average time needed to find a job in the United States had risen to an all-time record of 35.2 weeks.
    #6 Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs, which is believed to be a new record low.
    #7 The number of Americans working part-time jobs “for economic reasons” was the highest it has been in at least five decades during 2010.
    #8 The number of American workers that are so discouraged that they have given up searching for work reached an all-time high near the end of 2010.
    #9 Government spending continues to set new all-time records.  In fact, at the moment the U.S. government is spending approximately 6.85 million dollars every single minute.
    #10 The number of Americans on food stamps surpassed 43 million by the end of 2010.  This was a new all-time record, and government officials fully expect the number of Americans enrolled in the program to continue to increase throughout 2011.
    #11 The number of Americans on Medicaid surpassed 50 million for the first time ever in 2010.
    #12 The U.S. Census Bureau originally announced that 43.6 million Americans are now living in poverty and according to them that was the highest number of Americans living in poverty that they had ever recorded in 51 years of record-keeping.  But now the Census Bureau says that they miscalculated and that the real number of poor Americans is actually 47.8 million.
    #13 According to the FDIC, 157 banks failed during 2010.  That was the highest number of bank failures that the United States has experienced in any single year during the past decade.
    #14 The Federal Reserve brought in a record $80.9 billion in profits during 2010.  They returned $78.4 billion of that to the U.S. Treasury, but the real story is that thanks to the Federal Reserve’s continual debasement of our currency, the U.S. dollar was worth less in 2010 than it ever had been before.
    #15 It is projected that the major financial firms on Wall Street will pay out an all-time record of $144 billion in compensation for 2010.
    #16 Americans now owe more than $881 billion on student loans, which is a new all-time record.
    #17 In July, sales of new homes in the United States declined to the lowest level ever recorded.
    #18 According to Zillow, U.S. housing prices have now declined a whopping 26 percentsince their peak in June 2006.  Amazingly, this is even farther than house prices fell during the Great Depression.  From 1928 to 1933, U.S. housing prices only fell 25.9 percent.
    #19 State and local government debt reached at an all-time record of 22 percent of U.S. GDP during 2010.
    #20 The U.S. national debt has surpassed the 14 trillion dollar mark for the first time ever and it is being projected that it will soar well past 15 trillion during 2011.
    There are some people that have a hard time really grasping what statistics actually mean.  For people like that, often pictures and charts are much more effective.  Well, that is one reason I like to include pictures and graphs in many of my articles, and below I have posted my favorite chart from this past year.  It shows the growth of the U.S. national debt from 1940 until today.  I honestly don’t know how anyone can look at this chart and still be convinced that our nation is not headed for a complete financial meltdown….
    20 Shocking New Economic Records That Were Set In 2010 US National Debt Chart 20101

    Thursday, 13 January 2011

    25 Hard Questions That You Will Not See Asked On CNN, MSNBC Or Fox News -

    25 Hard Questions That You Will Not See Asked On CNN, MSNBC Or Fox News -

    There is a reason why so many millions of people are turning to the alternative media for their news today.  The truth is that there are a whole lot of important things that the mainstream media will simply not talk about.  There are a whole lot of other important issues that the mainstream media will tease their viewers with but then subsequently “whitewash” with the “official story” that none of us is supposed to question.  Have you ever noticed how CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, NBC and CBS all seem to come up with the exact same version of “the truth”?  But over the past several years we have seen a great awakening take place.  Millions of Americans are sick and tired of being spoon-fed establishment propaganda like a bunch of small children and they are searching on the Internet for alternative media outlets that are asking the hard questions and that are willing to at least explore answers that are not part of “the officially sanctioned” version of the truth.
    Posted below are 25 hard questions that you will not see asked on CNN, MSNBC or Fox News.  Sure, they may “tease” their viewers by “touching” on some of these issues, but they will never dig deep and they will never ask the really tough questions that are not “politically correct”.
    If a tough issue is brought up on one of these networks, it may be debated by a couple of establishment “talking heads”, and we will be told that both sides are being presented so that we can “decide”, but it is all a big dog and pony show.  The truth is that the big media companies will never really do anything that threatens the big money interests that own them or the big money interests that pour billions of advertising dollars into their organizations.
    Some of the big news companies may be a little bit more “blue” and some of them may be a little bit more “red”, but the versions of the news that all of them produce are always incredibly similar.
    Wouldn’t you just love it if the big media companies would tackle some of the questions posted below with some real honesty?
    #1 The U.S. dollar has lost well over 95 percent of its value since the Federal Reserve was created in 1913.  The Fed has failed time and time again from preventing big financial bubbles from being created and then eventually bursting.  About the only thing the Federal Reserve seems to be good at is creating more government debt that the rest of us have to pay for.  So what possible justification is there for allowing the Federal Reserve to continue to issue our currency and run our economy?
    #2 Ten years ago, the “employment rate” in the United States was about 64%.  Since then it has been constantly declining and now the “employment rate” in the United States is only about 58%.  So where did all of those jobs go?  Is this what we can expect from “globalism”?
    #3 Thousands of dead birds are falling out of the sky and millions of dead fish are washing ashore all over the globe.  So does this mean that there is something seriously wrong with the planet?
    #4 If the U.S. economy is getting better, then why did the number of Americans filing for bankruptcy rise another 9 percent in 2010?  Why won’t our government officials be straight with us and tell us the real truth about the economy?
    #5 Would a failure to raise the debt ceiling really “have catastrophic economic consequences that would last for decades” or is U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner just blowing off a lot of hot air again?   
    #6 If 71 percent of the American people are against it, and only 18 percent of them are for it, then why in the world are our representatives in Congress overwhelmingly in favor of raising the debt ceiling again?
    #7 Will a combination of extreme weather, soaring agricultural commodity prices and rising oil prices lead to a devastating global food shortage at some point in the next few years?
    #8 In Algeria, hordes of young people are throwing fire bombs and are shouting slogans such as “Bring us Sugar!“  Are these the kinds of food riots that we should expect to see around the globe as food gets tight this year?
    #9 Over the last couple of years, lawmakers in at least 10 U.S. states have introduced legislation that would allow state commerce to be conducted with gold and silver coins.  Could this be the beginning of a new trend?
    #10 When German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that Germany will do“whatever is needed to support the euro” is that supposed to make all of us feel better about the stability of the failing European currency?  If the Euro does fail, won’t that cause another financial meltdown like we saw back in 2008?
    #11 Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.  How in the world could we allow that to happen?
    #12 According to a recent Gallup survey, 7 out of every 10 Americansbelieve that religion is losing influence in the United States.  So exactly what does that say about our society?
    #13 Now that the State of Illinois has passed a 66 percent increase in the state income tax, how long will it be before other states start passing draconian income tax hikes?
    #14 Shouldn’t we be at least a little bit concerned that China has developed a new ballistic missile that can completely destroy a U.S. aircraft carrier nearly 2,000 miles out to sea?  Has China become a military threat that we need to start taking very, very seriously?
    #15 In 2006, no U.S. banks failed.  In 2009, 140 U.S. banks failed.  So did things get better in 2010?  No.  In 2010, 157 U.S. banks failed.  Do does that mean our financial system is getting healthier or does that mean our financial system is coming apart at the seams?
    #16 On January 1st, the very first of the Baby Boomers started to reach the age of 65.  Now more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will be turning 65 every single day for the next 19 years.  So where in the world are we going to get all the money we need to pay them the retirement benefits that we have promised them?  Isn’t the Social Security system essentially one gigantic Ponzi scheme?
    #17 According to a shocking recent survey, 40 percent of all U.S. doctorsplan to bail out of the profession over the next three years.  So how in the world is our health care system going to continue to function if that happens?
    #18 Why is the federal government spending approximately 6.85 million dollarsper minute if our founders intended for us to have a “limited central government”?
    #19 Should we be glad that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency want to lower the amount of fluoride in our drinking water, or should we be furious with them for poisoning us with super high levels of fluoride for all of these years?
    #20 The U.S. trade deficit with China during the month of August alone was more than 4,600 times larger than the U.S. trade deficit with China was for the entire year of 1985.  Do you think perhaps we should all not be buying so much stuff with “made in China” stamped on it?
    #21 If the federal government stopped all borrowing today and began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 440,000 yearsto pay off the U.S. national debt.  So does anyone out there actually still believe that the U.S. national debt will be paid off someday?
    #22 1180 new snowfall records were set in the United States just this past week.  So does that mean that global warming isn’t true after all?
    #23 If the U.S. economy is getting better, then why are an all-time record 43.2 million Americans now on food stamps?  Are middle class Americans being impoverished by design?
    #24 What in the world will a “security perimeter” around the United States and Canada actually look like?  Are our leaders slowly trying to turn North America into another version of the EU?
    #25 How in the world can Facebook be worth 50 billion dollars?  Is Goldman Sachs trying to pull a big joke on all the rest of us?

    Wednesday, 12 January 2011

    The U.S. government is insolvent. Who says so? Timothy F. Geithner, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury -

    The U.S. government is insolvent. Who says so?  Timothy F. Geithner, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury - 

    The U.S. government is insolvent. Who says so?  Timothy F. Geithner, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.  Geithner sent a letter to Congress on Jan. 6, 2011 asking for the debt limit to be raised.  If it is not raised, he warned, the U.S. will default on its debt.
    In his words:
    • "Never in our history has Congress failed to increase the debt limit when necessary.  Failure to raise the limit would precipitate a default by the United States."
    He didn’t say that the government will be inconvenienced.  He didn’t say that the government would be forced to muddle through by delaying payments, raising taxes, and cutting non-obligatory programs and services.  He said the government will default.  This means that the government doesn’t have enough cash to pay its obligations to the many and sundry persons to whom it owes cash unless Congress authorizes an issue of even more debt.

    After the government issues the new debt, its overall debt will be even higher than before. Unless its obligations that require cash payments are reduced, or unless it finds new sources of revenue, or unless the interest rates that it pays decline, the same situation will surely occur again and occur even faster because its overall debt will have risen. It will run short of cash to pay its obligations.

    Suppose that you had a debt of $10,000 that required a payment of $500 in order to stave off your creditors’ seizing your assets. Suppose that you didn’t have the $500. One way out would be to borrow $500 from a new lender and use that $500 to pay off the old lenders. That buys you time. However, now you have debts of $10,500. You have to find ways of lowering this or else you will again be faced with an even worse situation.

    You are approaching insolvency when you begin to run out of new lenders who are willing to add to your debt. The willing lenders dry up because they know that they have to get in line to get their promised payments while you continually seek out new borrowers, all the while making your situation worse and worse.

    Knowing their precarious position, the new lenders are likely to demand rising default risk premiums.

    That means they demand higher interest rates.

    That means your cash payment obligations go up. That hastens your approach to insolvency.

    Insolvency occurs when you cannot find enough cash from any source, even new lenders, in order to make required payments.

    The U.S. is approaching insolvency, according to its Treasury Secretary. He didn’t put the matter in precisely that way, but he put it in words that are as close as you can get to it. He said that the U.S. would default, and its only way out at this moment is to issue more debt.

    The increases in the debt limit have necessarily accompanied the increase in the government’s overall debt. Those increases have been especially astonishing in the last 10 years. The ceiling is now $14.29 trillion. The ceiling was $5.73 trillion in September of 2001. That’s a growth rate of over 10 percent a year.

    A few months back, Laurence Kotlikoff wrote that "The U.S. is bankrupt."  Using the government’s numbers properly labeled, he found that the U.S. fiscal gap, which is the difference between the present value of projected spending and revenues, is $202 trillion.   An IMF study of the U.S. finances found that it would have to double taxes to close its fiscal gap.  This is an impossibility.  It would destroy the struggling economy.

    Geithner’s statement confirms those of other analysts outside of the U.S. government.

    According to Kotlikoff, the government’s sixty-year "massive Ponzi scheme" will end when there are not enough revenues to pay for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. He sees large benefit cuts, large tax increases, and high inflation ahead when the government seeks to survive.

    How will the U.S. extricate itself from this situation? That’s a matter of speculation because there are many interacting variables involved. There are lots of ifs, ands, and buts.

    When a state cannot meet its promised obligations, there is no bankruptcy code to guide a reorganization, as there is with a company. There is no court to oversee a restructuring. There is no judge or panel that decides on the priority of claims. Instead, the government itself decides how to handle its inability to pay cash to fulfill its promises.

    In the immediate future, the U.S. government will not default on its bonds. They will have priority of payment. The reason the government will do that is to maintain its capacity to borrow at reasonable rates of interest so that it can maintain its size and programs. If the government defaulted on its bonds as a way of solving its financial problem, it would have immediately to cut back its spending severely. The government would shrink radically all at once. The government would take a big bath. Congress doesn’t want to do that. It would rather stretch out the default process and inflict the pain over time and among more groups than bondholders. Congressmen prefer to maintain themselves in power while managing a large government. Other branches and bureaucracies also prefer to keep their pet programs and activities afloat.

    Therefore, as usual, Congress will raise the debt limit again. That doesn’t end the financial problem. It adds to it even as it postpones and enhances possible insolvency.

    The new lenders that the government seeks out to lend it new cash are likely to demand higher interest rates, except for one major lender, which is the Federal Reserve System.

    Bond yields are subject to numerous worldwide influences. They include the default risk premiums demanded by foreign lenders, including Asian central banks. Those risk premiums are likely to rise.

    In contrast, the Federal Reserve has committed itself to buying $600 billion of new government debt in the next few months. Its purchases tend to support bond prices and keep interest rates down, other things equal.
    As the Federal Reserve keeps buying more and more government debt, with no prospect of reducing its holdings unless and until the government gets its house in order, bond yields are likely to rise, despite Fed buying, because yields also reflect inflation premiums. The prospect of inflation will rise as the Fed monetizes the debt. We would then see yields rising accompanied by firm prices of commodities and metals.

    The inflationary participation by the Fed, which postpones the inevitable fiscal decisions of the government, harms all holders of fixed-dollar assets and all those whose receipts of dollars are fixed and lag behind the Fed’s production of new dollars. In addition and more importantly, the inflation sets in motion another boom-bust cycle.

    Continued debt monetization by the Fed is quite likely for many reasons. 

    Friday, 7 January 2011

    Monday, 3 January 2011

    30 Reasons Why 2011 Is Going To Be Another Crappy Year For America’s Middle Class -

    30 Reasons Why 2011 Is Going To Be Another Crappy Year For America’s Middle Class -

    Do you think that 2011 will be a good year for America's middle class?  Well, you might not be so optimistic after you read the 30 statistics posted below.  The truth is that 2011 is going to be another crappy year for America's middle class, and there is not a whole lot that you or I can do about it.  Sadly, what we are facing as a nation is not just a short-term economic downturn.  Rather, there are some very serious long-term economic trends that are absolutely ripping apart the U.S. middle class.  For example, did you know that even though our population has been growing at a brisk pace we have lost about ten percent of our middle class jobs over the past decade?  The vast majority of jobs that have been created have been low paying service jobs.  We now have hordes of highly educated young people that are waiting tables and that are welcoming customers to Wal-Mart.  Without good paying jobs there is no middle class, but today American corporations are actually creating more jobs overseas than they are inside the United States.  This has helped pad the profits of the big corporate fatcats, but it has been devastating for middle class communities across the United States.  Every time a factory gets closed down in America and gets set up in some other country instead, it means that the U.S. middle class is shrinking just a little bit more.  The new "global economy" has been good for the bottom line of the largest U.S. corporations, it has been great for countries like China and India, but it is absolutely wiping out the U.S. middle class.
    If you still have a good paying middle class job you should be very thankful.  The total number of those jobs is rapidly decreasing.  Millions of those that have lost their jobs over the last several years have been forced to take lower paying jobs or even part-time jobs in an attempt to fill the void.  Millions of others have not been able to find a job at all.
    Meanwhile, the price of everything is going up.  Have you been to the supermarket lately?  The price of food is going up substantially.  Many analysts are already talking about $5 a gallon gasoline in 2010.  Utility bills are going through the roof.  Health care premiums are soaring.  Many state and local governments are seriously hiking up taxes and fees.
    Tens of millions of American families are going to be forced to make what they do have stretch even farther in 2011.  But for many American families the breaking point has already been reached.  An all-time record number of Americans is on food stamps.  An all-time record number of Americans is living below the poverty line.  Personal bankruptcies and mortgage defaults continue to hover around record levels.
    The U.S. economy is shaking like a leaf, and the people that are feeling it the most are the hard working American families that just want to make an honest living, pay the mortgage and feed their families.
    Unfortunately, 2011 isn't going to be any easier for those families.  As a nation we continue to pursue the exact same economic policies that have allowed these horrible long-term economic trends to develop.  Things are not going to change until our country starts moving in a fundamentally different direction.
    The following are 30 reasons why 2011 is going to be another crappy year for America's middle class....
    #1 We are bleeding middle class jobs at a pace that is staggering.  Since the year 2000, the United States has lost 10% of its middle class jobs.  In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs.
    #2 In particular, the United States is absolutely hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs.  Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.
    #3 The decline of manufacturing in America has only accelerated over the past decade.  The United States has lost a staggering 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.
    #4 Deindustrialization is creating ghost towns in some areas of the United States.  Even some of America's biggest cities are now only a shadow of what they used to be.  Since 1950, the population of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has declined by more than 50 percent.  In Dayton, Ohio 18.9 percent of all houses now stand empty.
    #5 We have literally seen tens of thousands of American factories close down permanently over the past decade.  Since 2001, over 42,000 U.S. factorieshave closed down for good.
    #6 U.S. companies now create more jobs overseas than they do in the United States.  Over the past year, American companies have created 1.4 million jobsoverseas but less than a million jobs here at home.
    #7 When Americans lose their jobs these days they typically end up having to take new jobs that do not pay as much.  According to one recent study, the majority of unemployed Americans that have been able to find new jobs during this economic downturn have been forced to accept a cut in pay.
    #8 The overwhelming majority of the jobs that the U.S. economy is creating now are low paying jobs.  In fact, more than 40% of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.
    #9 The number of long-term unemployed continues to skyrocket in this country.  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.
    #10 For those who are out of work, the wait can be excruciating.  It now takes the average unemployed American over 33 weeks to find a job.
    #11 Millions of Americans have become extremely depressed as they have discovered that they simply cannot find any work at all.  In August 2009, only 10 percent of the unemployed had been out of work for 2 years or longer.  Today that number is up to 35 percent.
    #12 Meanwhile, the gap between the wealthy and the poor continues to grow.  According to one recent report, the wealthiest one percent of all U.S. households have an average of approximately $14 million in assets, while the average U.S. household has assets that total about $62,000.
    #13 In fact, those at the very top of the income scale seem to be doing better than ever.  Between 1950 and 1989, the top 1% usually earned around 7 or 8 percent of all national income.  Today that figure is getting very close to 20 percent.
    #14 Some of the income inequality statistics are almost too outrageous to believe.  For example, the top 20 percent of U.S. working families take homeapproximately 47 percent of all income and earn about 10 times the amount that low-income working families bring in.
    #15 Sadly, most American families are now living week to week.  According to a survey released very close to the end of 2010, 55 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck.
    #16 The U.S. real estate market continues to stagnate.  During the third quarter of 2010, 67 percent of all mortgages in Nevada were "underwater", 49 percent of all mortgages in Arizona were "underwater" and 46 percent of all mortgages in Florida were "underwater".  So what happens if home prices go down even more?
    #17 For millions upon millions of middle class families, their number one financial asset is their house.  Unfortunately, many analysts are now projecting that U.S. housing prices will fall much lower than they are now.  For example, Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital says that home prices in the United States are going to decline at least 20 percent and possibly even more.
    #18 But even though home prices have declined significantly, the truth is that they are still too high for most American families.  Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
    #19 Most American families have found that their economic situations have significantly deteriorated over the last several years.  In fact, 55 percent of the U.S. labor force has “suffered a spell of unemployment, a cut in pay, a reduction in hours or have become involuntary part-time workers” since December 2007.
    #20 As tens of millions of Americans barely scrape by, saving for retirement has become an afterthought.  Today, 36 percent of Americans say that they don't contribute anything to retirement savings.
    #21 The truth is that incomes all across America are going down.  In 2009, total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined in the United States.
    #22 So is anyone doing better?  Well, one group is.  In 2009, the only group that saw their household incomes increase was those making $180,000 or more.
    #23 Most Americans are scratching and clawing and doing whatever they can to make a living these days.  Half of all American workers now earn $505 or lessper week.
    #24 Millions of Americans have been forced to take part-time jobs because that is all that they could get.  The number of Americans working part-time jobs "for economic reasons" is now the highest it has been in at least five decades.
    #25 Some of the people that have been hit the hardest by all this have been children.  According to one recent study, approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years.
    #26 If all of the above was not bad enough, now we are not even living as long.  According to one recent report, the United States has dropped to 49th placein the world in overall life expectancy.
    #27 The sad truth is that our country is in decline and it is getting poorer.  Ten years ago, the United States was ranked number one in average wealth per adult.  In 2010, the United States has fallen to seventh.
    #28 Our young people are supposed to be the hope of the future, but most of them are up to their eyeballs in student loan debt.  Americans now owe more than $875 billion on student loans, which is more than the total amount that Americans owe on their credit cards.
    #29 Life is getting harder and harder for those on the low end of the income scale.  The bottom 40 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.
    #30 On top of everything else, the price of oil is skyrocketing again.  John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil, believes that American consumers could be shelling out 5 dollars for a gallon of gas by 2012.  If that actually happens, it is going to absolutely devastate millions of middle class American families.
    So are you depressed yet?
    Well, don't be.  There is a whole lot more to life than just money.
    Times are hard and they are going to get harder, but that doesn't mean that you can't thrive in the middle of all this.  Hopefully we can all take this as a wake up call.  We all need to work harder, become less wasteful, become more independent and stop living as if the good times are going to last forever.
    So what do you think 2011 is going to hold for the U.S. economy?  Please feel free to leave a comment with your opinion below....