The American economy has slowly compressed the middle class into a minority group. When the manufacturing sector slowly eroded away, waiting in the wings to replace those higher paying jobs was low wage service sector employment. Now as it turns out the top 10 largest occupations in the United States are occupied by low wage service sector fields. Contrast this to the last generation where many of the top largest occupations paid a wage that was enough to propel someone into the middle class. Out of the top 10 occupations, there is only one job that pays a higher wage and this requires a college degree and specialized training.
Americans now hold an incredible $4.1 trillion in consumer debt. This latest data shows that Americans are now back to having an insatiable appetite for spending beyond their means. Unlike mortgage debt, consumer debt is not building up any future equity here. The largest category of consumer debt is student loan debt. Even at the peak of the last debt bubble, consumer debt totaled roughly $2.5 trillion. While student debt makes up about $1.4 trillion of the consumer debt here, auto debt is above $1 trillion. We’ve also seen a large rise in subprime auto debt suggesting that people are borrowing beyond their means to consume. Delinquencies are also rising suggesting any tiny slip up in the overall economy and this credit bubble can burst too.
Housing affordability shows that most Americans are too broke to buy a home: The American Dream moves further out of reach.
More Americans are finding it harder to afford a home. In fact, a closely followed housing affordability index is now back to where it was in 2008. Not exactly a prime time for buying homes. Most Americans are too broke to afford a home. Which is somewhat contrary to the narrative that is pumped out via pro housing propaganda. Buying a home is always a good deal! Real estate never falls! Only fools rent! So goes the story about buying real estate. Yet given current prices, many families find the dream of owning a home more of a far flung aspiration than a reasonable financial reality. We can see this trend unfolding with the vast number of new renter households over the last decade. Younger Americans are saddled with mountains of student debt and many are making lower wages. Taking on a large mortgage simply isn’t appealing or feasible when an albatross of debt is already being carried.
The manufacturing base has completely eroded in this country and one chart dramatically highlights this (shown later in the article). It is deeply disturbing that we now have as many people working in restaurants as waiters and bartenders as we do in manufacturing. This of course is for good reason given that you can’t export (yet) the ability to order a meal and have a stiff drink served to you to drown away your economic sorrows. As a nation we have enjoyed spending on a lax credit card for an entire generation. And now that money is coming back rushing in buying up real estate, studios, hotels, franchises, and everything else you can imagine. For every debt there is a collector. That is basic accounting (assets and liabilities). In a simplified equation you want to have more assets and fewer liabilities. However when you look at our export and import data, a troubling picture emerges.
U.S. Dollar Store empire: Making $20 billion a year one dollar at a time on broke Americans. 8,000+ dollar stores blanket the U.S.
Most people have been to a Starbucks and readily admit it, even if they never go back. Many people have been to dollar stores but rarely admit this. Dollar stores are doing exceptionally well with over 8,000 stores in the United States with revenues well above $20 billion a year. Their target audience is working class Americans. Dollar stores also cater to the massive number of Americans on food stamps. At last count there were 43 million Americans on food stamps. This at a time when the economy is supposedly robust and creating jobs left and right. The reality is that many Americans are now fully left behind by the new economic forces changing the world. The grand rift in our country is stemming from this unrelenting change but one thing is certain. Broke Americans and dollar stores go hand and hand.
The standard wage for an American is $29,000: Social Security data reveals raw figures for the wealthiest country in the world.
All Americans pay Social Security taxes. So looking at Social Security for income data is fairly reliable. The new Social Security figures show that Americans continue to make a lot less than what the public tends to believe. For example, you may have seen mainstream shows with talking heads saying that someone making $200,000 a year is somehow middle class. First, if your family is making that much you are in the top five percent of all U.S. households. Not exactly the middle. The median figure is the best measure here. This is the point where half of workers make less or more (the true middle). The latest Social Security data shows that the median worker income earned by an American is much less than what most expect.
The 4 Horsemen of the US Debt Apocalypse: 80 percent of federal government operation costs go to four areas in Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, Veterans Affairs, and Department of Defense.
Here is a question you probably won’t find on Jeopardy: what is the actual risk of a U.S. default on its debt? The answer to that is none because the Federal Reserve has the magical power to create new debt to pay off old maturing debt. Must be nice to operate beyond the normal rules of accounting. Yet there is a problem where the debt to GDP ratio is now at a level only surpassed by that brought on by World War II where the industrial powers were literally in full scale war. It is probably worth noting that we have mountains of debt and a large portion of this is being held by China, a nation that is being politically unsettled by words of the incoming administration. We are essentially in a situation where our tax receipts are not keeping up with our spending. So the debt only grows. And four departments eat up 80 percent of all federal government spending: The Department of Health and Human Services, the Social Security Administration, Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense.