The Elites Are Jumping Ship As The Financial Collapse Draws Near
ZeroHedge.com Jul 28, 2017 10:40 PM
Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,
It’s easy to think of the political and financial elites who run our world as lofty and all powerful. They command dangerous governments that can wield devastating weapons, central banks that treat our economy like a rigged casino, media conglomerates that pacify the minds of the public, and unbelievably wealthy corporations that have concentrated wealth to an unprecedented degree.
However, they’re certainly not invincible, and the systems of control that they’ve created are rapidly diminishing. Most notably, they seem all to aware of the fact that the global economy is headed for a crash. On the rare occasion where you can catch one of the elites in a moment of candor, they’ll tell you that the party is almost over.
Mohamed A. El-Erian is a bona fide member of the global power elite (a former deputy director of the IMF and president of the Harvard Management Co.). Yet he writes in a fairly accessible style on the popular Bloomberg website. When El-Erian talks, we should all listen.
In a recent article he raises serious doubts about the sustainability of the bull market in stocks because of reduced liquidity resulting from simultaneous policy tightening by the Fed, European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of England. He says stocks rose on a sea of liquidity and they may crash when that liquidity is removed. This is a warning to other elites, but it’s also a warning to you.
Their actions are quite telling as well. Sovereign wealth funds, which are largely funded and owned by powerful governments to invest in domestic industries, are jumping ship.
Among sovereign wealth funds, the Government of Singapore Investment Corp. (GIC) is one of the largest, with over $354 billion in assets. So what does the head of GIC say about markets today?
Lim Chow Kiat, CEO of GIC, warns that “valuations are stretched, policy uncertainty is high” and investors are being too complacent. GIC allocates 40% of its assets to cash or highly liquid bonds and only 27% of its assets to developed economy equities. Meanwhile, the typical American small retail investor probably has 60% or more of her 401(k) in developed economy equities, mostly U.S.
In other words, the investment arms of wealthy nations are pulling out of the stock market and out of companies in their own economies (developed economy equities), and putting their money into assets that can be quickly turned into cash. It’s practically an admission by the elites, that they think the economy is completely unstable.
But this is just the latest warning sign that the elites are getting nervous. Corporate executives have been selling their stocks at an unprecedented rate for several months. Meanwhile, ordinary people are still placing their faith and their bets on a stock market that most experts agree is completely unsustainable.
And let’s not forget that “luxury bunkers” have become immensely popular, and that the super-wealthy have also been buying remote retreats all over the world. Are they afraid of what the public is going to do to them when their phony economy crashes and leaves everyone broke? Are they positioning themselves for a crash that they know is coming?
All of this suggests that the wealthiest and most connected among us know that chaos is in our future, and they’re getting ready for it. Ignore them at your own peril.
Total Government And Personal Debt In The U.S. Has Hit 41 Trillion Dollars ($329,961.34 Per Household)
ZeroHedge.com Jul 27, 2017 5:15 PM
Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,
We are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world. In 1980, total government and personal debt in the United States was just over the 3 trillion dollar mark, but today it has surpassed 41 trillion dollars. That means that it has increased by almost 14 times since Ronald Reagan was first elected president. I am searching for words to describe how completely and utterly insane this is, but I am coming up empty. We are slowly but surely committing national suicide, and yet most Americans don’t even understand what is happening.
According to 720 Global, total government debt plus total personal debt in the United States was just over 3 trillion dollars in 1980. That broke down to $38,552 per household, and that figure represented 79 percent of median household income at the time.
Today, total government debt plus total personal debt in the United States has blown past the 41 trillion dollar mark. When you break that down, it comes to $329,961.34 per household, and that figure represents 584 percent of median household income.
If anyone can make a good argument that we are not in very serious debt trouble, I would love to hear it.
And remember, the figures above don’t even include corporate debt. They only include government debt on the federal, state and local levels, and all forms of personal debt.
So do you have $329,961.34 ready to pay your share of the debt that we have accumulated?
Nobody that I know could write that kind of a check. The truth is that as a nation we are flat broke. The only way that the game can keep going is for all of us to borrow increasingly larger sums of money, but of course that is not sustainable by any definition.
Eventually we are going to slam into a wall and the game will be over.
One of my pet peeves is the national debt. Our politicians spend money in some of the most ridiculous ways imaginable, and yet no matter how much we complain about it nothing ever seems to change.
For example, the U.S. military actually spends 42 million dollars a year on Viagra.
Yes, you read that correctly.
42 million of your tax dollars are being spent on Viagra every year.
And overall spending on “erectile dysfunction medicines” each year comes to a grand total of 84 million dollars…
According to data from the Defense Health Agency, DoD actually spent $41.6 million on Viagra — and $84.24 million total on erectile dysfunction prescriptions — last year.
And since 2011, the tab for drugs like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra totals $294 million — the equivalent of nearly four U.S. Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
Is this really where our spending on “national defense” should be going? We are nearly 20 trillion dollars in debt, and yet we continue to spend money like there is no tomorrow. For much more on the exploding size of our national debt and the very serious implications that this has for our future, please see my previous article entitled “Would You Like To Steal 128 Million Dollars?”
I didn’t think that our debt bubble could ever possibly get this big, but I didn’t think that our stock market bubble could ever possibly get quite get this large either. For a few moments, I would like for you to consider a list of facts about this stock market bubble that was recently published by Zero Hedge…
Our financial markets are far more primed for a crash than they were in 2008.
The only times in our entire history that are even comparable are the late 1920s just before the infamous crash of 1929 and the late 1990s just before the dotcom bubble burst.
A whole lot of people out there seem to be entirely convinced that things will somehow be different this time. They seem to believe that the laws of economics no longer apply and that we will never pay a significant price for decades of exceedingly foolish decisions.
Overall, the world is now 217 trillion dollars in debt. Earlier this year, Bill Gross raised eyebrows when he said that “our highly levered financial system is like a truckload of nitro glycerin on a bumpy road”, and I very much agree with him.
There is no way that this is going to end well. Yes, central bank manipulation may be enough to keep the party going for a little while longer, but eventually the whole thing is going to come crashing down in a disaster of unprecedented magnitude.
Central Bankers 'Are' The Crisis
ZeroHedge.com Jul 25, 2017 7:20 PM
Authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog,
If there’s one myth - and there are many - that we should invalidate in the cross-over world of politics and economics, it‘s that central banks have saved us from a financial crisis. It’s a carefully construed myth, but it’s as false as can be. Our central banks have caused our financial crises, not saved us from them.
It really should -but doesn’t- make us cringe uncontrollably to see Bank of England governor-for-hire Mark Carney announce -straightfaced- that:
“A decade after the start of the global financial crisis, G20 reforms are building a safer, simpler and fairer financial system. “We have fixed the issues that caused the last crisis. They were fundamental and deep-seated, which is why it was such a major job.”
Or, for that matter, to see Fed chief Janet Yellen declare that there won’t be another financial crisis in her lifetime, while she’s busy-bee busy building that next crisis as we speak. These people are now saying increasingly crazy things, and that should make us pause.
Central banks don’t serve people, or even societies, as that same myth claims. They serve banks. Even if central bankers themselves believe that this is one and the same thing, that doesn’t make it true. And if they don’t understand this, they should never be let anywhere near the positions they hold.
You can pin the moment central banks went awry at any point in time you like. The Bank of England’s foundation in 1694, the Federal Reserve’s in 1913, the ECB much more recently. What’s crucial in the timing is where and when the best interests of the banks split off from those of their societies. Because that is when central banks will stop serving those societies. We are at such a -turning?!- point right now. And it’s been coming for some time, ‘slowly’ working its way towards an inevitable abyss.
Over the past few years the Automatic Earth has argues repeatedly, along several different avenues, that American society was at its richest between the late Anyone see a recovery in there? Lance uses 1981 as a ‘cut-off’ date, but the GDP growth rate as represented by the dotted line doesn’t really begin to go ‘bad’ until 1986 or so. At the tail end of the late 1960s to early 1980s period, as the American economy was inexorably getting poorer, Alan Greenspan took over as Federal Reserve governor in 1987. A narrative was carefully crafted by and for the media with Greenspan as an ‘oracle’ or even a ‘rock star’, but in reality he has been instrumental in saddling the economy with what will turn out to be insurmountable problems.
Greenspan was a major driving force behind the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which was finally established through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley act of 1999. This was an open political act by the Federal Reserve governor, something that everyone should have then protested, and still should now, but didn’t and doesn’t. Central bankers should be kept far removed from politics, anywhere and everywhere, because they represent a small segment of society, banks, not society as a whole.
Because of the ‘oracle’ narrative, Greenspan was instead praised for saving the world. But all that Greenspan and his accomplices, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, actually did in getting rid of the 1933 Glass-Steagall act separation between investment- and consumer banking was to open the floodgates of debt, and even more importantly, leveraged debt. All part of the ‘financial innovations’ Greenspan famously lauded for saving and growing economies. It was all just more debt on top of more debt.
Greenspan et al ‘simply’ did what central bankers do: they represent the best interests of banks. And the world’s central bankers have never looked back. That most people still find it hard to believe that America -and the west- has been getting poorer for the past 30-40 years, goes to show how effective the narratives have been. The world looks richer instead of poorer, after all. That this is exclusively because of rising debt numbers wherever you look is not part of the narratives. Indeed, ruling economic models and theories ignore the role played by both banks and credit in an economy, almost entirely.
Alan Greenspan left as Fed head in 2006, after having wreaked his havoc on America for almost two decades, right before the financial crisis that took off in 2007-2008 became apparent to the world at large. The crisis was largely his doing, but he has escaped just about all the blame for it. Good PR.
With Ben Bernanke, an alleged academic genius on the Great Depression, as Greenspan’s replacement, the Fed just kept going and turned it up a notch. It was no longer possible in the financial world to pretend that banks and people had the same interests, so the former were bailed out at the expense of the latter. The illusionary narrative for the public, however, remained intact. What do people know about finance, anyway? Just make sure the S&P goes up. Easy as pie.
The narrative has switched to Bernanke, and Yellen after him, as well as Mario Draghi at the ECB and Haruhiko Kuroda at the Bank of Japan, saving the world from doom. But once again, they are the ones who are creating the crisis, not the ones saving us from it. They are saving the banks, and saddling the people with the costs. In the past decade, these central bankers have purchased $20-$50 trillion in bonds, securities and stocks.
The only intention, and indeed the only result, is to keep banks from falling over, increase their profits, and maintain the illusion that economies are recovering and growing.
They can only achieve this by creating bubbles wherever they can. Apart from the QE programs under which they bought all those ‘assets’, they used -and still do- another tool: lowering interest rates to the point where borrowing money becomes so cheap everyone can do it, and then do it some more. It has worked miracles in blowing stock market valuations out of all realistic proportions, and in doing the same for housing markets in locations all over the globe.The role of China’s central bank in this is interesting too, but it is such an open and obvious political tool that it really deserves its own discussion and narrative. Basically, Beijing did what it saw Washington do and thought: why hold back?
Fast forward to today and we see that we’ve landed in a whole new, and next, phase of the story. The world’s central banks are all stuck in their own – self-created – bubbles and narratives. They all talk about how they solved all the issues, and how they will now return to normal, but the sad truth is they can’t and they know it.
The Fed stopped purchasing assets through its QE program a while back, but it could only do that because Frankfurt and Japan took over. And now they, too, talk about quitting QE. Slowly, yada yada, because of control, yada yada, but they know they must. They also know they can’t. Because the entire recovery narrative is a mirage, a fata morgana, a sleight of hand.
And that means we have arrived at a point that is new and very dangerous for the entire global economy and all of its people.
That is, the world’s central bankers now have an incentive to create the next crisis. This is because they know this crisis is inevitable, and they know their masters and protégés, the banks, risk suffering immensely or even going under. ‘Tapering’, or whatever you might call the -slow- end to QE and the -slow- hiking of interest rates, will prick and blow up bubbles one by one, and often in violent fashion.
When housing bubbles burst, economies lose the primary ingredient for maintaining -let alone increasing- their money supply: banks creating money out of thin hot air. Since the money supply is one of the key components of inflation, along with velocity of money, there will be fantastic outbursts of debt deflation. You’ve never seen -let alone imagined- anything like it.
The worst part of it is not government debt, though that, when financed with bond sales, is not not an instrument to infinity and beyond either. But the big hit to economies will be private debt. Where in many bubble areas, and they’re too numerous too mention, eager potential buyers today fret over affordable housing supply, it’ll all turn on a dime and owners won’t be able to sell without being suffocated by crippling losses.
Pension funds, which have already suffered perhaps more than any other parties because of low interest ZIRP and NIRP policies, have switched en masse to riskier assets like stocks. Well, another whammy, and a bigger one, is waiting just outside the door. Pensions will be so last century.
That another crisis is waiting to happen, and that politics and media have made sure that just about no-one at all is aware of it, is one thing. We already knew this, a few of us. That the world’s main central bankers have an active incentive to bring about the crisis, if only by sitting on their hands long enough, is new. But they do.
Yellen, Draghi and Kuroda may opt to leave before pulling the trigger, or be fired soon enough. But whoever is in the governor seats will realize that unleashing a crisis sooner rather than later is the only option left not to be blamed for it. Let the house of dominoes crumble now, and they can say “nobody could have seen this coming”, while at the same time saving what they can for the banks and bankers they serve. That option will not be on the table for much longer.
We should have never given them, let alone their member/master banks, the power to conjure up trillions out of nothing, and use that power as a political tool. But it is too late now.
More than a third of California households have virtually no savings, are at risk of financial ruin, report says
By Kevin Smith, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
More than 37 percent of California households have so little cash saved that they couldn’t live at the poverty level for even three months if they lost a job or suffered another significant loss of income.
That’s the grim assessment of the 2017 Prosperity Now Scorecard. The report was compiled by Prosperity Now, a Washington, D.C.-based organization seeking to help people — particularly people of color and those with limited income — achieve financial security and prosperity.
The scorecard also shows that 46 percent of households in the Golden State didn’t set aside any savings for emergencies over the past year, a higher percentage than the national rate of 43.7 percent.
It doesn’t help that 21.1 percent of California jobs are in low-wage occupations. The scorecard found that 21.4 percent of Californians experienced income volatility over the past year, a situation that most often results from irregular job schedules.
It gets worse for households of color. They are nearly twice as likely to live below the poverty line as white households — 18.2 percent compared to 9.7 percent — and they are much less likely to own a home or other assets that could help boost their long-term financial stability.
Less than half of California’s households of color (43.9 percent) own homes, compared to 62.5 percent of white, non-Hispanic households. Moreover, 60.7 percent of Latino households and 56.7 percent of black households have virtually no savings and are considered “liquid asset poor,” compared to 28.2 percent of white households fitting that category.
“Beyond providing a cushion to get families through emergencies, increased savings and wealth allow families to invest in their futures and gain ground for future generations,” Prosperity Now President Andrea Levere said in a statement. “It’s clear that far too many people are stuck in economic limbo.”
Lars Perner, an assistant professor of clinical marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business, said California’s high housing costs have put many households on shaky financial ground.
“The cost of housing in California is exorbitant,” he said. “That’s a big part of the problem. People pay a disproportionate amount of their income toward housing.”
The report finds that nearly 20 million U.S. households (16.9 percent of the total) have zero or negative net worth. That means they owe more than they own.
The scorecard suggests several policies that could help get struggling households on track, including adopting policies that encourage saving, increasing the minimum wage, providing better access to home ownership and boosting retirement security.
Banks Are Scheming To Dominate A Future Cashless Society
ZeroHedge.com Jul 24, 2017 11:20 PM
Authored by Shaun Bradley via TheAntiMedia.org,
Visa recently announced its new Cashless Challenge program, which offers $10,000 to restaurants willing to transition into accepting only digital payments. As the largest credit card processor in the U.S., it’s no surprise Visa is spearheading this campaign.
Under the guise of increasing transparency and efficiency, they’ve partnered with governments around the world to help convert financial systems into cashless models, but their real incentive is the billions of dollars in extra transaction fees it would generate.
“We are declaring war on cash,” Visa spokesman Andy Gerlt proudly proclaimed after the program was announced.
The food-based small businesses Visa is targeting are among those that benefit most from accepting cash from customers. When transactions are for amounts less than $10, the fees charged cut significantly into profits. Only 28% of food trucks currently accept credit card payments because of the huge losses they incur from them. The bribe from Visa may seem appealing up front but will be mostly paid back to them over the next few years in fees alone.
Liz Garner, Vice President of the Merchant Advisory Group, which represents over 100 of the largest businesses in the U.S., explained some of the hurdles faced when dealing with card networks:
“For many businesses – both large and small – the cost of accepting plastic cards and other forms of electronic payments is one of their highest operating costs. Most business owners have no qualms about paying reasonable fees for business services, and they do so every day for items such as cleaning services, security systems, Wi-Fi, and other basic needs. However, they have the ability to negotiate for those services in a fair and transparent marketplace, which they do not with the two major credit and debit card networks….Credit card and debit card fees are dictated directly by Visa and MasterCard and are imposed on the majority of merchants in a take-it-or-leave-it fashion. Most businesses feel that failing to accept these major card brands is not a competitive option so they continue accepting electronic payments even though the costs are squeezing their business, and the inflexible acceptance rules fly in the face of free market enterprise,”
This ongoing push for a cashless society in Europe, Asia, and the Americas is about much more than just phasing out paper money — it’s about central planners solidifying control over the public’s wealth. This ongoing merger of corporate and government interests is the definition of crony capitalism. Regardless of the blatant collusion, the choices individuals make will still ultimately decide the direction for the future. Buying material goods on credit has become a lifestyle for millions, but the long-term costs of those decisions must be understood if there’s any chance for progress.
Americans have made a huge mistake by running up a staggering $1 trillion dollars in credit card debt with an average interest rate of over 16%. Thanks to the Federal Reserve system, companies like Mastercard, Discover, and American Express can issue bonds paying extremely low-interest rates to the investors while simultaneously lending that money out to credit card holders at sky high rates. Companies will always take advantage of opportunities to increase profits, but the people’s willingness to keep borrowing from them is at the core of the problem.
Access to cheap capital has been extended to the largest corporations for over a decade, but when it comes to small businesses or individuals there is a completely different set of standards. The pressure to consistently increase revenues and stock prices has led to an unnatural parasitic relationship between these companies and their customers. Cash is one of the last options that allows people a way to avoid dealing with this kind of shakedown.
More than 30% of all payments in the U.S. are still conducted in cash, but financial intermediaries that charge processing fees are joining with the State and central banks to ensure the public has no room to innovate. Credit and debit cards have been the most convenient way to make purchases for over a decade, but emerging competition is slowly making them irrelevant.
Bitcoin and smart contract platforms have introduced an entirely new marketplace for businesses and individuals outside the dominion of the old financial vanguard. Dozens of large corporations have founded the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance to build support for other developing alternative blockchain technologies aside from Bitcoin. This ongoing evolution towards peer-to-peer payments will eventually doom companies like Visa to the same fate as Blockbuster. Those in power may champion the benefits of going cashless, but going bankless may be the only way out of this extortion matrix.
The efforts by governments and the financial industry to eliminate cash are only going to intensify. Those who adapt to the new paradigm of peer-to-peer payments will thrive, while those who don’t will have their hard earned money extracted to support a failing system. The illusion of banks being safe should have been shattered after the 2008 crisis, but eventually, the reality of how unstable the current institutions are will become apparent. Educating entrepreneurs and businesses on the benefits of Bitcoin and other decentralized options is the only way to shift this economy away from the control of central planners and towards a free and voluntary market.