Enough With The Government Cover-Ups

Edward Harrison, 01.12.10, 04:20 PM EST

What really happened to AIG and other bankrupt firms.

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It has come to light recently that American International Group withheld important information about its dealings with financial counterparties in the lead-up to its collapse and bailout by the Federal Reserve. What is most troubling about this episode is that it was officials at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York–not AIG–who seem to have orchestrated the secretive and potentially illegal activities. Moreover, the actions by the regulator were uncovered only through an investigation conducted on behalf of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Were it not for the doggedness of the committee’s ranking Republican member, Darrell Issa of California, the public would be none the wiser.

Is this what it has come to in America: Public officials making policy via cover-ups, secret deals and government coercion? It seems so. If we don’t demand a full investigation into this type of behavior and criminal prosecution where appropriate, we should expect more of the same in the future.
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Game Over for the American Middle Class – MYBUDGET360

JAN-28-2010 – Game Over for the American Middle Class – Inflation Adjusted Wages up 20 Percent in Last 20 Years While Housing Costs are up 56 Percent and Healthcare Costs are up 155 Percent.

The struggle for average Americans to keep up is largely becoming an act of will power and force in this current grand recession.  Now you wouldn’t think that there is a definite war raging against the middle class if you simply follow the mainstream media but the facts speak to a more distilled and corporatized method of debt slavery.  Americans are working more hours trying to stay in the same place that they believe would keep them on pace to having the American Dream.  And this dream is merely the ability to afford a home, provide your children with a good education (public or private), and save enough to have a retirement that doesn’t require you to eat cat food after a lifetime of working.  That is at the root of what most average Americans would want after a full working career.

But we are at an inflexion point and the middle class is largely being squeezed out.  A recent study from the Commerce Department shed some light on an issue that we already know.  Over the past 20 years the middle class has been falling behind:

middle-class-costs

Everything is relative in this world.  Incomes have gone up during this time but the cost of housing, healthcare, and access to education have outpaced income gains in some cases by four to one.  Money is only worth what you can buy with it.  The grand housing bubble of this decade lured many into buying homes that they simply could not afford.  Banks and Wall Street were more than willing to provide access to this dream since they knew if all bets crashed, and they did, that they would call on their connected politicians to bail them out and send the bill to taxpayers for their adventures in finance.  Take a look at the chart above closely.  Housing price changes have wiped out any gains in income.  The relative amount of income needed to buy a home has put many two income households on the brink of bankruptcy.  And the 4 million foreclosure filings in 2009 alone tell us that many Americans are unable to hold onto one cornerstone of the American Dream.

The middle class is absolutely vital to having a sustainable and flourishing economy.  The massive debt machine coming from the big banks has created a new form of debt servitude.  Some would argue that this is a personal responsibility issue and I will be the first to agree with that.  People should live within their means.  But think of the FICO score that has become like a permanent financial report card.  Some employers actually screen for credit scores before hiring applicants.  Want to rent a home because you don’t want to over extend and buy a home?  You better hope that FICO is up to par.  And many insurance companies base their analysis on this score.  So even if you never had a credit card or any debt, you would be in a bad spot because so many people rely on this number.  This is only one example of how people are actually forced to use debt simply to pursue the avenues of the middle class.

In fact, we have many more people simply trying to stay afloat let alone pursuing the middle class ideal.  Over 37 million Americans are now part of the food stamp program, not only is this the highest number ever but also the highest percentage of Americans ever to be on food assistance:

food-stamps

I sometimes read gut wrenching stories from the Great Depression where people would wash and reuse paper towels or have soup for weeks on end just to keep their families fed.  37 million Americans would be one step away from that existence if it weren’t for some basic safety nets.  It is troubling to say the least that this patch is what is keeping this great recession from being a profound depression.  Yet I think the 27 million underemployed Americans are already in that state of mind.  The idea of a middle class life is slowly drifting away as each and every day we realize that our nation is becoming more of a corporatacracy.

The housing nightmare really played on both ends of this middle class dream.  Banks were more than willing to lend trillions of dollars to people that really could not afford the homes they were buying.  This created the biggest housing bubble the world has ever witnessed and the bursting ramifications are being felt throughout the economy.  Yet if you look at the equation, who is really being punished?  Average Americans are being punished as they have their homes foreclosed on.  Yet banks who are in the supposed position of financial experts, have not only garnered trillions in bailouts but are now back to their speculative ways.  This is disturbing because it is highlighting a marked shift and a near game over for the middle class.

Think of the rise of our economy in the 1940s and 1950s.  Many returning GIs had access to affordable education through new programs and grants.  It is the least you can offer to someone defending this country.  Next, it was possible to support a family with one income because we had a strong and sustainable manufacturing base.  Now, we have families with two incomes in the service sector trying to piece things together.  Throw in a child, and that second income evaporates through childcare costs and educational fees.  In other words, just because people have more income their buying power has collapsed.

And this fact is revealed in the data that two-income households are more of an economic necessity:

two-income-households

So of married couples with two children 76 percent have two earners.  The average American is simply working to stay on track or face being thrown off the treadmill.  Jobs are so important to keeping a solid middle class.  This should be obvious but current policy being driven by thecorporatacracy is simply focusing on keeping prices inflated for the big ticket items (i.e., housing and healthcare).  At this point in the game, housing values have gone up to points that are clearly unsupportable:

the-cost-of-homeownership1

This being the biggest budget item for most households, you would assume that lower prices would be welcomed from the government seeing that many Americans are underemployed and those with jobs have seen stagnant wages.

The middle class dream is at risk.  This is a question of what we want out of our country.  Are we simply obsessed on keeping home values inflated so banking giants could keep gaming accounting rules and claim billion dollar profits?  If we want to prosper in the next decade, there will need to be a radical change to preserve what once was envied by the world.  Otherwise, you can expect banks and their political allies to keep selling away the middle class of America.  On the path we are traveling on the middle class is largely at risk for a big game over in the next decade.

Is The U.S. Economy Being Tanked By Mistake or By Intent? by Bill Sardi

Is The U.S. Economy Being Tanked By Mistake or By Intent?

by Bill Sardi

Recently by Bill Sardi: Who Is Left Holding the Bag on US Debt?

The government wants Americans to believe the greatest economic collapse in history was the result of ineptness and mistakes yet still have confidence in their financial institutions.

Should American bankers be let off the hook because they self-declare, before an investigational panel, that the failure of their newly invented risk swaps and other highly leveraged investment schemes was simply due to “mistakes”? Not malfeasance – just every-day mistakes? Bankers just fell asleep at the helm at a critical juncture in American history. Is that what we are being led to believe?

Oh well, it’s just 18 million American homes that now lay empty in the wake of unprecedented foreclosures, and the bankers have collected obscene bonuses for reckless lending of their depositors’ money. It’s like the captain and crew of a ship saying, not to worry, twenty-percent of the passengers were lost overboard, but this was due to unavoidable mistakes, and then being rewarded with bonuses when they reach port.


FULL ARTICLE

YAHOO: Preparing for the Worst

by Robert Kiyosak

Posted on Monday, August 24, 2009, 12:00AM

“Is the crisis over?” is a question I am often asked. “Is the economy coming back?”
My reply is, “I don’t think so. I would prepare for the worst.”

Like most people, I wish for a better future for all of us. Life is better when people are working, happy, and spending money.

The stock market has been going up since March 9, 2009. Talk of “green shoots” fill the air. Yet, in spite of the more positive news, I continue to recommend that people prepare for the worst. The following are some of my reasons:

1. I believe the stock market is being manipulated. I suspect the government, banks, and Wall Street are doing everything they can to keep the market from crashing. Our leaders know that nothing makes the world feel better than a raging bull market.

Do I have any proof that the market is being manipulated? No. I just smell a rat, or a pack of rats. I believe greed, self-interest, arrogance, and fear control the financial markets. I suspect those in charge will do anything to keep us all from panicking… and I don’t blame them. A global panic would be ugly and dangerous.

2. In my view, this global crisis has been caused by the Federal Reserve Bank, the U.S. Treasury, Wall Street, and the central banks of the world. They caused the problem, profited excessively in doing so, and now profit by being asked to fix the problem.

Every time I hear a politician mention the word stimulus, my mind flashes back to high school biology class, when I touched battery wires to a dead frog to make it twitch. Today, you and I are the dead frogs. Pretty soon the dead frog will be fried frog.

In the 1980s, our government’s hot money stimulus was measured only in the millions of dollars. By the 1990s, the government had to ramp the stimulus voltage into the billions in order to get the frog to twitch. Today the frog has jumper cables with trillions in high-voltage hot money pouring through the lines.

While most us feel better when we have more high-voltage money in our hands, none of us feel good about higher taxes, increasing national debt, and rising inflation for the long term. Another old saying goes, “Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.” I say the government stimulus cure is killing us frogs.

3. Old frogs don’t hop. Another reason I am cautious about the future is that the Western world has a growing number of old frogs. Between 1970 and 2000, the economy responded to bailouts and stimulus packages because the baby boomers of the world were entering their greatest earning years — their purchasing power increased, and demand for homes, cars, refrigerators, computers, and TVs boosted the economy.

The stimulus plans seemed to work. But when a person turns 60, their spending habits change dramatically. They stop consuming and start conserving like a bear preparing for winter. The economy of the Western world is heading into winter. Hot wires and hot money will not get old frogs to hop. Old frogs will simply join the bears and stick that money in the bank as they prepare for the long, hard winter known as old age. The businesses that will do well in a winter economy are drug companies, hospitals, wheelchair manufacturers, and mortuaries.

4. The dying frog economy will lead us to the biggest Ponzi schemes of all: Social Security and Medicare. If we think this subprime financial crisis is big, it’s my opinion that this crisis will be dwarfed by the crisis brewing in Social Security and Medicare…Medicare being the biggest crisis of all. As old frogs head for the big lily pad in the sky, they will demand young frogs spend even more in tax dollars just to keep old frogs from croaking.

5. The 401(k)Ponzi scheme. A Ponzi scheme, like the scheme Madoff ran, depends upon young money to pay off old money. In other words, a Ponzi scheme needs tadpoles to finance old frogs. The same is true for the 401(k) and other retirement plans to work. If young money does not come into the stock market, the old money cannot retire. One reason so many people my age are worried, not only about Social Security and Medicare, is because they’re concerned about getting their money out of the stock market before the other old frogs decide to drain the swamp.

The facts are that the 401(k) plan has a trigger that requires old frogs to begin withdrawing their money at a certain age. In other words, as baby boomers grow older, more and more will be required, by law, to begin withdrawing their money from the market. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to know that it is hard for a market to keep going up when more and more people are getting out.

The reason the 401(k) has this law related to mandatory withdrawals is because the Federal government wants to collect the taxes that they deferred when the worker’s money went into the plan. In other words, the taxman wants their pound of flesh. Since they allowed the worker to invest without paying taxes, the government wants their tax dollars when the employee retires. That is why the laws require older workers to sell their shares ¬– and pay their pound of flesh.

Demographics show that we are entering a battle between young and old. I call it the “Age War.” The young want to hang onto their money to grow their families, businesses, and wealth. The old want the tax and investment dollars of the young to sustain their old age.

This war is not coming…it is upon us now. This is one of many reasons why I remain cautious and say, “The worst is yet to come.”

Stock Market History – Dow Jones 1990 to 2009

The market has been looking pretty good over the past few months. Do not get too excited. The market becomes very volitile in recession/depression times. Jobs have not recovered.

dow07-2009The above chart shows the dow from 2007 (the peak) and now. Its highest point was about 14000 (which was WAY overvalued fueled by bubbles) and the lowest point is the trough, around 6800 (still overvalued). Now we are approaching back to 9000+ levels, seen during 90’s. I am sorry, but we HAVE NOT recovered. 26 MILLION jobs are still lost. In case you forgot, America has about 300 million people.

dow90-2009Look at the above chart from 1990’s until now. We have not reached the bottom of the market yet. Expect the Dow to drop to BELOW 4000 sometime. Our media and financial gurus are pushing the market back up to rediciculous highs because we want it that high. It does not mean that our economy is actually improving. Nobody ever said that the Dow was a definite indicator of the economy, but seriously, look at the chart. We are nowhere near a recovery. The only companies making profits recieved huge bailouts. Banks are losing money as we speak (despite their new overdraft fee increases). We are in for some trouble when the commercial real estate bubble goes pop! I believe that the mainstream media will do its job at keeping it on the hush.

LINK: For Those Who Want To Know

http://www.wanttoknow.info/index.shtml

This website provides a concise, reliable introduction to vital information of which few are aware. We specialize in providing fact-filled news articles and concise summaries of major cover-ups which impact our lives and world. All information is taken from the most reliable sources available and can be verified using the links provided. Sources are always noted, with links direct to the information source provided when possible. The WantToKnow.info team presents this information as an opportunity for you to educate yourself and others, and to inspire us to strengthen democracy and to work together for the good of all.

Did you know that:

  • Twenty leading journalists, including winners of several Emmys and a Pulitzer, have described being prevented by corporate media ownership from reporting riveting stories on major cover-ups.
  • BBC News has exposed plans of the U.S. military to “provide maximum control” of the Internet, as detailed in a declassified secret Pentagon document signed by the U.S. Secretary of Defense in 2003.
  • CBS News report quotes former U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, “According to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.” That’s $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America.
  • Government documents released through the Freedom of Information Act show that the top Pentagon generals once approved plans to foment terrorism in major U.S. cities and even kill innocent civilians.
  • Multiple, reliable sources show that you may be eating genetically modified food every day whichscientific experiments have repeatedly demonstrated can cause sickness and even death in lab animals.
  • Detroit’s leading newspaper reported that the 1908 Ford Model T boasted a fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon. Yet 100 years later, the EPA average mileage for all cars is under 21 mpg.
  • A highly decorated US General wrote a book titled War is a Racket, which clearly depicts how he was manipulated and how most wars are waged largely to keep the coffers of certain big corporations filled.
  • The former chief of a prestigious medical journal has revealed that the total profits of the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 were more than the profits of the other 490 businesses combined.
  • Declassifed CIA documents open to the public leave no doubt that through hypnosis, drugs, and electric shock, secret mind control projects created super spies, terrorists, assassins, and more.
  • More than 50 senior government officials and 100 professors have publicly expressed significant criticism of the 9/11 Commission Report. Many even allege government complicity in the 9/11 attacks.
  • For more highly revealing media articles hidden in plain sight with links for verification, click here.

Note: If you are already aware of these cover-ups, please visit our page which will take you even deeper.

Letter Re: Wealth Destruction–Real Wealth or Just On-Paper Wealth?

Conversation Thread taken from my favorite site Survivalblog.com (Author of blog is JWR)

Sir:
I followed the link in Thursday’s blog to this I followed this news story: 45 percent of world’s wealth destroyed: Blackstone CEO. It stated: “Between 40 and 45 percent of the world’s wealth has been destroyed in little less than a year and a half.” I don’t see how Schwarzman can be right about that. The factories are still there. the farms are still there. The houses are still there. And there are still warehouses full of everything from Machinery and bar stock to Sponge Bob Squarepants toys.So what has been destroyed are just “on paper” profits, not any real wealth. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but what is to stop us from just revaluating things, and getting along with life? Thanks, – F.T.G

JWR Replies: You are mostly right, but partly wrong. You are correct that there has been very little real tangible wealth that has been destroyed, other than inventory that might be discarded for lack of a market, some half-finished commercial and residential building projects that will eventually get bulldozed, and some perishables that have been delayed in transit and that went to waste. You are also correct that most of what still exists tangibly has genuine value. But consider that an under-utilized factory produces fewer goods than a fully-utilized factory. (OBTW, on that note, we can thank President Obama for at least keeping America’s gun, ammunition, and magazine factories working at a fever pitch.)

So let’s step back and look at the big picture…

What has been destroyed:

1.) Asset Values:
This goes without saying. Reader FTG is correct that facilities and capital equipment are physically intact, but their values have been greatly reduced. I expect to see this process continue for several more years.

2.) Wages and Buying Power:
By cutting out overtime, reducing shifts, idling assembly lines, canceling re-stocking orders, reducing pensions, scaling-back benefits, and laying off employees, there has been a great contraction in wage-earning income and hence buying power–even to the point where people are having trouble making their mortgage payments. This leads to a chain collision of missed house payments, foreclosures, and evictions. Worse yet, it means even more houses will be dumped onto a market that is already flooded with “excess inventory.”

3.) Credit, and the Perception of Credit-Worthiness:
As I’ve described before, the economy is presently in a phase characterized by revaluation–as the various market sectors probe for new market prices.(Economists call this “Price Discovery.”) Simultaneously, lenders are are positively petrified to lend to their heretofore “credit worthy” clients. There has been so much debt re-packaging that has gone on, that it is now very difficult to reliably assess any accurate values of assets and to evaluate loan risk

4.) Consumer Confidence
Much of the consumerism that built up in the US for the past 30 years was a Spendthrift mentality, created by the bygone oceans of “Easy Credit”. Both that credit and the resultant spending are now gone. And I do mean gone. In previous recessions, there had been brief declines in consumerism, but I can foresee that this one one will be different. This will be more like the 1930s, where the nation developed an entire generation of penny-pinchers. Don’t get me wrong–I consider this good thing! Saving is admirable. Overspending is foolish. But from the standpoint of economic recovery, this could delay recovery by several year, since a large portion of the economy had built up around the concept of women with 25 pairs of shoes, and men with three sets of golf clubs

5.) For Many, the Hope of Retirement at Age 65:
Millions of American that were nearing retirement have lost any hope of retiring. Aside for the holdings of a few crazy “gold bugs” (like SurvivalBlog readers), their IRAs and 401(k)s have been devastated. There are also some company pension plans that have gone “poof” or that will surely be scaled back considerably. I don’t want to gloat, but those of you that took my advice three years ago and sold their dollar-denominated investments and invested in tangibles have come through the credit market collapse virtually unscathed. Some of you even came out ahead. Meanwhile, those that left their money in stock-heavy 401(k) accounts have been devastated. Losses of 30% to 50% have been the norm. Ouch!

6.) Carefree Mobility:
Before the housing bubble burst, people could easily change jobs, sell their houses (at a profit!) and move from coast to coast without much inconvenience. But to do so now constitutes major trial and tribulation. Up to 40% of people with mortgaged homes now have negative equity–meaning that the remaining principal of their mortgage now exceeds the market value of their house. (This is commonly called being “upside down” in a mortgage.) So now, even for someone that can make their mortgage payments, changing jobs to a new locale beyond commute distance means losing their house and starting over. And if they go with the “jingle mail” method, it means starting over with a ruined credit rating.

7.) The Last Shreds of Job Security:
Following the trend set by Silicon Valley, when the “Dot.Com” bubble burst in 2000, many industries are now getting positively ruthless about cost-cutting. There is now a constant barrage of news of layoffs, reduced benefits, and cutting our perks. Don’t expect “normality” to resume to the corporate workplace in our generation. Any vestiges of “job security” have become a thing of the past.


What Will Likely Continue to Be Destroyed:

1.) Further erosion of asset values.
The price of real estate (both residential and commercial) will likely continue to decline until either A.) The economy starts to recover, or B.) Inflation kicks in. If it is the latter, (which is what I suspect, sooner or later), property prices will start to rise only because general price inflation has grown. But this will be a false recovery in real estate. Real property values will continue to decline, while the currency unit itself is being destroyed. Yes, your house may be worth a several million dollars, but what will a million dollars buy you in such times? The same may happen with stocks. In the presence of inflation, news of a “stock market rally” will be nothing but fiction if the currency. Amidst the “Happy Days are here again” hoopla,real values will still be in the dumpster.

2.) More job losses and further-reduced wage-earning hours

3.) More failed pension programs

4.) The dollar itself as a currency unit. This recent news article was a subtle warning: The Swiss central bank has already fired the first shot in the global currency war. I expect large devaluations–both formal and informal–by many nations in the near future. The bottom line is that the US Dollar is doomed.

What will Remain and Gain:

Tangibles, Tangibles, Tangibles! I’ve been harping on that theme in SurvivalBlog for three years. Again, those of you that took my advice are mostly sitting pretty. Silver and gold have doubled, as have ammunition and many full capacity magazines. Productive farm and ranch land has held most of its value, while at the same time suburban real estate has plummeted. If you have not yet transitioned out of dollar-denominated investments, then do so immediately. (The current stock rally is nothing but a sucker rally in the larger context of secular bear stock market So this is a good opportunity to bail out.)

The present-day wave of deflation will likely be followed by a period of sharp inflation. At some point, all those trillions of “magically created out of thin air” dollars that will needed for the Mother of All Bailouts (MOAB) will inevitably catch up with the Dollar. My closing warning: Be ready for some serious consumer price inflation, most likely starting in 2010.

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