Feb 11 2014

The global debt reckoning – Total global debt at $230 trillion. Total world debt over 300 percent annual GDP. There is no escape from a reckoning with debt markets.

Total global debt crossed a troubling event horizon by going past the $200 trillion mark last year.  Given the latest figures we are likely well above a total global debt of $230 trillion based on a comprehensive study done by ING last year.  The banking sector rummages for every possible way of accessing debt.  Global central banks from the Fed to the ECB to the Bank of Japan are now fully engaged in a digital printing end game.  It isn’t so much the startling debt figures that are presented but the GDP that is actually backing up this insurmountable level of debt.  The latest data shows that total world debt is running above 313 percent of annual GDP.  To put this into perspective the US meltdown occurred when household debt reached about 120 percent total debt to annual GDP.  The only way to keep payments current is with a low rate environment.  There is no choice.  So central banks will do everything they can to print this debt into oblivion.  In many ways this is a reason that we have seen a rush into assets from commodities, real estate, art, Bitcoins, and anything that isn’t just a bunch of 1s and 0s on a central bank computer easily changed by the whims of politicians and those connected to them.

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Feb 8 2014

The shackles of consumer credit in a low rate environment – Banks would rather leverage low rates from the Fed than lend money to cash strapped American households. 15 percent average rate on credit cards and typical savings account rate near 0 percent.

In a world where debt equals the ability to purchase large items, access to debt is king.  For this reason banks are the new modern day oligarchy since they have a nearly unlimited line of credit with the Federal Reserve.  The public during the credit bubble days had access to nearly unlimited debt via mortgages, home equity loans, auto debt, credit card debt, and student debt.  Since the credit bubble burst, access to credit has been severely limited to the public.  It is interesting to note that credit card debt, the lubricant of our consumer economy is lower today than it was in 2009.  Some $56 billion has been taken away from the credit card market for American consumers.  Banks have the ability to loan but choose to speculate in real estate investments since many households simply do not have the incomes to back up large purchases.  Part of being addicted to debt is that the withdrawal is painful yet banks have not faced any retrenchment while the public has been forced to adapt to credit austerity.

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Feb 5 2014

How crony capitalism is harming the economic prosperity of young Americans: College tuition up 1,140 percent since 1978 and wages are stagnant.

When you live life as a hammer, everything must appear like a nail.  So when our economy is run and operated by the financial industry, everything must appear like a casino just asking for it in terms of speculation.  Such is the state of affairs in a crony capitalistic system.  The term gets thrown around but in reality, we do have a system that is punishing the working and middle class in favor of a small connected financially elite.  The financial sector in our economy is so powerful, that the biggest financial meltdown in our generation resulted in nothing more than a hand slap and not one heartbeat was skipped on those big banking bonuses.  In the meantime the middle class continues to shrink and young Americans are swimming in oceans of student debt.  Many are graduating into a tough economy where the market is flooded with low wage jobs.  Is this crony financial system benefitting young Americans?

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Feb 2 2014

The EBT recovery – Food stamp cuts impact Wal-Mart: The consequences of a low wage recovery create a larger group of Americans living food stamp to food stamp.

This recovery is the most lopsided recovery the US has faced in more than a generation.  Wal-Mart recently announced a big hit to their bottom-line because of the recent cuts to the nationwide food stamp program.  Over 47 million Americans now depend on food stamps to get by on a monthly basis to feed their families.  In reality, these are debit cards that are automatically refilled on a monthly basis causing queues to form at some Wal-Marts on the last day of the month at midnight.  This is a massive market.  In fiscal year 2013 over $76 billion in food stamps were issued.  This has also led to a mini renaissance in stores like Family Dollar and the 99 Cents Store.  Even these low priced giants have faced tougher challenges as the nation’s poor get even poorer.  There doesn’t seem to be any major retrenchment on the number of food stamp participants.  How can that be if the employment figures are supposedly looking so rosy?  The issue of course is that many of the new jobs have come in the form of low wage work.  Many food stamp recipients are actually employed and are part of the working poor.  When Wal-Mart takes a hit because of a cut in food stamp benefits you know that this recovery is barely treading water.

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Jan 28 2014

Why millions of Americans will never retire: How the prospect of retirement went from a realistic goal to an outrageous dream for most American families.

Retirement was presented to many Americans as some kind of middle class rite of passage.  It was odd to see so many fall under the spell of easy riches and generous retirement math presented to the public from the Wall Street financing machine.  Many saw retirement as a distant object so far into the future but the future is now here.  The middle class is shrinking and with it the dreams of retirement.  I suppose it is important to define retirement before we go on since this is a relatively new concept as far as history is concerned.  In the past, you worked until you died.  Short of royalty, this was the typical life path.  Retirement, at least how it was presented to modern American workers, meant a time in life when financial worries were gone thanks to a lifetime of work.  In more practical terms this meant a combination of a pension, 401k/403b, and Social Security.  Social Security was never intended to be the main retirement income stream for Americans but it is.  Pensions are now nearly extinct in this low wage economic system.  Many Americans in the early 1980s were presented with the Wall Street vision of retirement where many simply set aside money in 401ks and IRAs generating untold wealth to the financial kings.  Wall Street was supposed to exercise some fiduciary duty to the American people but the opposite occurred.  A massive bait and switch.  Retirement is going to take on an entirely new definition given the current state of wealth in America.

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Jan 26 2014

Is the stock market overvalued by 50 percent? PE ratios out of sync with fundamentals underlying the economy. Not in labor force group in US increased by 15 percent since recession ended.

How quickly people forget financial history.  Those investing in the stock market since 2009 have grown accustomed to a market that only moves in one direction.  They are also addicted to a system built off crony financial leverage that has largely locked out the vast majority of the public.  This system has created wealth inequality that is now the worst we have seen during multiple generations.  The stock market is massively overvalued based on multiple measures.  Many use earnings as a way of measuring the actual value of a company.  The PE ratio has been used over many decades as a sensible way of valuing companies.  That is why today, with the PE ratio of the S&P 500 being 80 percent higher than the historical average dating back to 1870 we have to question what is driving this market higher.  Certainly those with wealth, a smaller portion of the population, understand the Fed is debasing savings so people are diving deep into stocks, art, and even real estate to preserve wealth.  Those that claim no inflation is imminent fail to look at the items that impact the lives of people daily.  The stock market is up 164 percent from the lows reached in 2009!  People are now addicted to a market juiced by easy funny money.

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Jan 23 2014

The acceleration of a global Gilded Age: Half of the world’s wealth now owned by one percent of the population. Bottom half of world population own the same as the richest 85 people in the world.

Wealth inequality across the globe has reached epic proportions.  While many bankers roll around in piles of digital million dollar bonuses for basically adding no value to the economy, the rest of the world struggles to enter this modern economic era.  The perception is that this is only happening across the world in other nations.  Unfortunately the US has done an excellent job of exporting the middle class and creating a widening gap between rich and poor.  A report by Oxfam International highlighted the dramatic wealth inequality that now plagues the world.  Half of the world’s wealth is now owned by the top one percent of the population.  Interestingly enough this pattern is also unfolding here in the United States.  The global banking system has protected its own interests and to what end?  It appears that a modern day global Gilded Age is now unfolding.

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