Archive for November 24th, 2010
In what is now 38 times in 2010 (out of 46), the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) has revised its prior weekly initial jobless claims number higher, from 439k to 441k. The most recent number, which is far less relevant (as it will be revised worse next week) and much more volatile due to it being a pre-thanksgiving week, and layoffs plunge, came at 407k compared to 435k the expectations.
Most importantly, non-seasonally adjusted claims increased by 52.5k. But of course, the government’s adjustment is where it’s at. Continuing claims were of course also revised higher as the BLS’ charade of beating instant expectations has gotten boring: the prior number of 4,295k was pushed higher to 4,324k, once again confirming that anything the BLS reports has to be ignored until the next week revision. Lastly, the loss of extended claims started early this year, with those collecting extended claims and EUCs dropping by over 280k.
Basically, the government would like people to believe that people falling off the unemployment rolls altogether is a good thing. These are people that still cannot find employment after two years.
True reality looks more like this:
Full Spectrum Dominance: 8 Examples Of How The Government Is Attempting To Take Total Control Of Our Food, Our Health, Our Money And Even Our Dignity
Over the past several decades, no matter which political party has been in power the government has continued to become a larger part of our lives. These days many people are speaking of the “nanny state” that we have created, but the reality is far worse than that. The truth is that the government has become a gluttonous, out of control behemoth that is gobbling up everything in sight and that is attempting to exert full spectrum dominance over our lives. Today, the government seems to have an insatiable hunger to watch us, track us and control us. Now they even want to feel our private parts before we get on an airplane. No matter what politicians we send to Washington D.C., it just seems to get worse and worse. Anyone who still believes that we live in “the land of the free” is completely and totally delusional.
It isn’t just in one particular area that all of this government intrusion into our lives is so offensive. What we are witnessing is the government slowly digging its fingers even deeper into our lives in a thousand different ways. Sadly, most Americans see the government as the one who is supposed to take care of them from the cradle to the grave, as the one who is supposed to fix all of the problems in society and as the one who is their ultimate authority.
This is in direct contradiction to the concept of a “limited government” that our Founding Fathers tried so desperately to enshrine in our founding documents. The American people need a big-time wake up call. The following are 8 examples of how the U.S. government is attempting to take even more control over our lives….
#1 Taking Total Control Of Our Food – S. 510 “The Food Safety Modernization Act”
S. 510, “The Food Safety Modernization Act”, is another huge power grab by the FDA and the federal government over our food supply. The bill is written so broadly and so vaguely that nobody really knows what it means. The potential for abuse of these vague new powers would be staggering. So will the government abuse these powers? Those who are in favor of the bill say that of course the government will be reasonable, but those who are opposed to the bill point to all of the other abuses that are currently taking place as evidence that we simply cannot trust the feds with vague, undefined powers.
Fortunately, the Tester Amendment has been attached to S. 510 at least for now, but big agriculture is not happy about this, and they will be doing everything they can to get it kicked out of the final version of the law. In any event, if this food safety law does get passed, tens of millions of Americans will be left wondering what they are allowed to grow in their back yards, what seeds they are allowed to save and what can and cannot be sold at farmer’s markets.
In case you think this is paranoid, just consider what is already happening. It has been documented that the feds recently raided an Amish farmer at 5 AM in the morning because they claimed that he was was engaged in the interstate sale of raw milk in violation of federal law. If the feds are willing to stoop so low as to raid Amish farmers, do you think they will have any hesitation when the time comes to raid your home?
#2 Taking Total Control Of Air Travel – The Dehumanizing Full Body Scanners And “Enhanced Pat-Downs”
Totalitarian governments throughout history have always sought to dehumanize their subjects. Sadly, that is exactly what is happening in America today. If you want to get on an airplane in the United States, you will now be forced to either let TSA agents gawk at your naked body or let TSA agents grope your entire body including your genitals.
What these TSA agents are being instructed to do to ordinary Americans is so bizarre that it is hard to believe. It is being reported that in many instances TSA agents are actually reaching down the pants of male travelers and up the skirts of female travelers. One retired special education teacher was left humiliated, crying and covered with his own urine after an “enhanced pat-down” by TSA agents. Quite a number of women that have been through these “enhanced pat-downs” have used the phrase “sexual assault” to describe the experience.
So is this what America has become? A place that is so “dangerous” that we all must be treated like prison inmates? Large numbers of Americans are swearing that they will simply not fly anymore, but what happens when these “enhanced pat-downs” start showing up at our schools, our shopping centers and our sporting events someday?
#3 Taking Total Control Of Our Health Care – The Loss Of Our Health Freedom
Once upon a time, Americans had control over their own health care decisions. That is no longer true today. Thanks to major changes in our health care laws, the health care landscape in America has been dramatically changed. Americans are now forced to participate in the officially-sanctioned health care system by purchasing health insurance. But Americans cannot just get any kind of health insurance policy that they want. Our health insurance choices are now tightly constrained by thousands of regulations.
Not only that, but doctors in America no longer have the freedom to treat patients however they see fit. Only “approved” treatments are permissible, and now the federal government is going to be telling doctors which of those “approved” treatments are “cost-effective” enough. As the new health care laws are fully implemented over the next decade, the American people are going to become truly horrified not only about how much their health insurance premiums are going up, but also about how much health freedom they have actually lost.
#4 Taking Control Of Our Money – Multiplying Taxes
Whenever one tax goes down, it seems like several other taxes either go up or get invented. The truth is that Americans are being drained by the federal government, state governments and local governments in dozens upon dozens of different ways. To our various levels of government, our primary function is to serve as a revenue source. Each year it seems like they find more ways to stick it to us. In fact, it looks like 2011 is going to be a banner year for tax increases. If you doubt this, just see my previous article entitled “2011: The Year Of The Tax Increase“.
#5 Taking Control Of Our Businesses – Thousands Of Ridiculous Regulations
Why would anyone in America even attempt to be an entrepreneur today? Most small businesses are literally being strangled by hordes of red tape.
Just consider how things have changed in America. The Federal Register is the main source of regulations for U.S. government agencies. In 1936, the number of pages in the Federal Register was about 2,600. Today, the Federal Register is over 80,000 pages long.
The following is just one example of how bizarre things have gotten in this country. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is projecting that the food service industry will have to spend an additional 14 million hours every single year just to comply with new federal regulations that mandate that all vending machine operators and chain restaurants must label all products that they sell with a calorie count in a location visible to the consumer.
Do we really need to spend 14 million more hours telling Americans that if they keep eating hamburgers and fries that they are likely to get fat?
But it is not just the federal government that is the problem. One reader recently described how difficult it was to try to run a business in the state of California….
Had 10 employees, but one almost exclusively to deal with government regs, taxes, reporting etc, Received a $144 penalty for a .33 (yes, cents)error on my quarterly payroll taxes from Cal Franchise Tax Board. I called to ask if that was not a bit repressive, why level penalize someone for what was obvisouly a didminimus error? I was told “we would have penalized you if it was .03!” I said, I did not volunteer to be the income tax collector for the State and Fed government, you should be paying me to do all this work and insane paper pushing. Reply: “That is part of the PRIVILIGE of being a business owner!!!”
#6 Taking Control Of Our Environment – The Green Police
The government is using the “green movement” as an excuse to take an unprecedented amount of control over our lives. From coast to coast, communities have been given government grants to track our trash with RFID microchips. The following are just some of the communities that will now be using microchips to track what we throw away….
*Charlotte, North Carolina
Not only that, but some cities are now starting to fine citizens for not recycling properly.
In Cleveland, Ohio if an RFID tracking chip signals that a recycle bin has not been brought out to the curb within a certain period of time, a “trash supervisor” will actually sort through the trash produced by that home for recyclables.
According to Cleveland Waste Collection Commissioner Ronnie Owens, trash bins that contain over 10 percent recyclable material will be subject to a $100 fine.
Does that sound like America to you?
Now we don’t even have the freedom to throw out trash the way we want to.
#7 Taking Away Our Independence – The Exploding Welfare State
You don’t have much freedom if you can’t take care of yourself. But in America today, tens of millions of Americans have literally become completely dependent on the government for survival. Over 42 million Americans are now on food stamps. Approximately one out of every six Americans is enrolled in a federal anti-poverty program.
The number of Americans living in poverty has increased for three consecutive years, and the 43.6 million poor Americans in 2009 was the highest number that the U.S. Census Bureau has ever recorded in 51 years of record-keeping.
The more Americans that are destitute and totally dependent on the government the easier it will be for the government to control them. Today a rapidly growing percentage of Americans fully expect the government to take care of them. But this is not what our founders intended.
#8 Taking Away Our Patriotism – We Are Even Losing The Freedom To Be Proud Of America
Do you ever think things will get so repressive in America that a group of high school students will be forbidden from singing the national anthem at the Lincoln Memorial? Well, that has already happened. Do you think that areas of our nation will ever become so anti-American that they will forbid students from riding to school with an American flag on their bikes? Well, that has already happened.
Fortunately, there was such an uproar over what happened to 13-year-old Cody Alicea that it made national headlines and he ended up being escorted to school by hundreds of other motorcycles and bicycles – most of them displaying American flags as well. The school reversed its policy and now Cody can ride his bike to school every day proudly displaying the American flag.
But what if nobody had decided to stand up?
That school would have gotten away with banning the flag if the American people had allowed them to.
Our liberties and our freedoms are under attack from a thousand different directions and they are being stripped away from us at a blinding pace.
It has gotten to the point where most of us just sit in our homes and enjoy the “freedom” of digesting the “programming” that is constantly being hurled at us through our televisions. Of course the vast majority of that programming is produced by just 6 monolithic corporations that control almost everything that we watch, hear and read.
Power and money have become more highly concentrated in America today than ever before, and yet most Americans don’t even realize it.
Most Americans are so busy just trying to survive from month to month that they don’t even have time to think about the deeper issues. At the end of the night most of them are so exhausted from serving the system that all they can do is collapse on the sofa and turn on some programming.
But the American people desperately need to wake up. Without liberty and freedom our country cannot work. But our freedoms and liberties are being stripped away a little bit more each and every day.
The America that so many of us grew up adoring is dying right in front of our eyes. If you plan on saying something about it, you better do so before it is too late.
When peak credit implodes on the consumer balance sheet – $1 trillion in consumer debt has been removed from the market since 2008. Only consumer debt category growing is student loan debt.
The U.S. insatiable consumer machine has reached a peak debt scenario. Household balance sheets are simply unable to take on more debt on their already financially sore shoulders. At the core of the Federal Reserve quantitative easing actions is the mission to lower the interest rate since consumers simply are unable to borrow more. By lowering interest rates, it provides a shadow boost to purchasing power. The way this occurs is through allowing borrowers to pay more for assets yet keep their monthly payments low enough to coincide to their now lower standard of living and stagnant wages. Being in a position like this is troubling to most Americans who hold very dearly the idea that the core mission of their government and financial institutions is to grow a healthy middle class. Many are starting to painfully realize that the government and banks are primarily looking out for their bottom line and this translates to exporting the U.S. middle class standard of living. As you will see with the chart below, consumer debt peaked early in 2008.
Source: Calculated Risk, New York Fed
Now many will probably ask how it is possible for consumer debt to contract if banks in 2007 and 2008 were desperately pleading on bended knee for bailout funds to keep liquidity available to make loans. The problem of course is that banks did a bait and switch and used the money to plug their deteriorating Swiss cheese balance sheets riddled with shoddy loans. If you look at the above chart, home mortgages and home loans make up 80 percent of all consumer debt. Most of the mortgage debt has declined because of the massive number of housing foreclosures. Just think of how many loans were written off by banks or a home that once sold for $400,000 now selling for $200,000. That is a legitimate loss on the balance sheet but also cuts the amount of debt outstanding. It is also the case that banks are simply pushing out mortgages that conform to government standards not dipping into their own funds to make private label mortgages. The banking system has no faith in the people that unwillingly bailed them out.
The one category that has grown is student loan debt. It is now the case (as of summer of 2010) that student loan debt is larger than all outstanding credit card debt. At least with credit card debt, someone can file for bankruptcy and have the debt discharged. Student loan debt sticks with you no matter the circumstances and for-profit schools are using the economic calamity to lure in tens of thousands of students into expensive paper mill operations over promising future job prospects and healthy income.
“Since early 2008, the combined consumer loan market has seen a contraction of nearly $1 trillion in debt (a drop of over 7 percent). The trend will continue because home prices will trend lower and there is still a massive pipeline of foreclosures that will be hitting for the next few years as the economy simply moves sideways.”
Credit cards are the life blood of many consumers for better or for worse but default rates are surging and banks have tightened up lending standards. You might have noticed this with the decrease in credit card offers in your mailbox. Because of this, the revolving credit market has contracted severely:
This is the most severe correction in revolving credit in record keeping history dating back to the early 1970s. This has also parlayed into the new austerity that has swept the nation. We already know through human nature that people will spend if you give them access to unlimited amounts of debt. That was virtually the headline of the last decade. Debt equaled wealth and credit in the minds of many people but what was easily forgotten is that you have to pay the debt eventually. Unlike the Federal Reserve with the ability to print money, a household balance sheet needs to be repaid or defaulted on. Banks wouldn’t mind taking back an expensive home or a nice luxury car assuming the balance is lower than the value of the item. This way, they can turn a profit. The problem is the collateral isn’t anywhere close to the value of what banks have on their balance sheets.
The massive contraction of peak debt isn’t only happening with revolving credit, it is also happening with commercial and industrial loans. Many of these are tied to the massive $3 trillion in outstanding commercial real estate out in the market. The commercial side of the market is a good indicator at the health of mom and pop shops. A small business needs a loan to get off the ground so a commercial builder will need a loan to build a shopping center to provide a store front. Yet the below chart shows nothing of that sort:
So you have to ask where the “recovery” really is showing up. It is hitting on a couple of places. Banks with incredibly low interest rates are speculating in the stock market here but also abroad. That is clear. But it is also the case that domestic businesses with stagnant wages and pushing off benefit costs to employees has increased its profit margins. Yet that model can only exist for so long. We are in the midst of a severe credit contraction brought on by peak debt. The Fed is going deeper into this and the U.S. Treasury will have to confront raising the debt ceiling yet again next year. If it doesn’t this will severely impact the credit rating of the U.S. You think these politicians have the intestinal fortitude to do that? I doubt it.
Ben Solomon is a lawyer with the Association Law Group, and practices community association law in Florida. Through his firm’s efforts, his association client foreclosed on Otaime Paez, an owner who was delinquent on her condominium fees. Solomon then filed a lawsuit against Citibank, the lender who held the first mortgage on the Paez unit. The lawsuit basically told the bank “foreclose on the unit or abandon the mortgage.”
The premise here is “restraint on alienation.” It’s a rather important (but somewhat arcane) legal principle that restraining someone’s right to sell or otherwise dispose of property is not permitted under the law. So what Mr. Solomon did was to sue (on behalf of the condo association) to force Citibank to get off the dime – that is, to not sit on the mortgage and refuse to act, as the banks have been doing.
Interestingly enough LPS, one of the “default mills”, now says that over 4.3 million loans are now more than 90 days delinquent, and 20% of those loans more than two years delinquent are not in foreclosure!
That’s not surprising given my local experience – there are a lot of people around here who have made no mortgage payments in over a year – sometimes two.
This has provided quite a nice “boost” to the economy – a seldom-mentioned fact by the media, and when it is, it’s seen as a “positive” to consumer spending.
Well, no. For the so-called “positive” there are lots of negatives, including those associations in managed communities. Not that I have much sympathy for the folks who run HOAs and have them – I find the premise of an HOA in most cases (along with their bylaws) to be ridiculous in the extreme. As with much of what’s done in today’s world what started as a good idea – the reasonable protection of property values – turns into a nightmare of kafkaesque proportions.
But in the case of townhomes or condos, a HOA is essential, as there is a legitimate community property problem that someone has to take care of, along with the insurance thereupon. And the problems that a large percentage of non-paying units poses is, in those cases, very real.
Then there are the municipalities. Those who aren’t paying their mortgages are almost all not paying their property taxes either. Yes, the counties sell tax certificates, but that doesn’t get them the money now, which of course is what’s used to pay for schools, police and fire protection and other essential services. While I’m certainly in the camp that says that municipal budgets are bloated and full of waste, it is without question that this sort of “mexican standoff” game does harm to everyone involved – except the homeowner, of course, who “gets a freebie.”
The distortions in the economic picture, along with the damage done to other (paying) homeowners and municipal governments, is massive. And this is one place where the government’s so-called “Bank Oversight” is not only negligent, it’s criminally corrupt. These institutions are often holding the notes, including any seconds behind the delinquent first, at or near full “PAR” value. That’s utter BS, and yet we know it’s happening because “provisions” for losses have in fact been cut over the last two quarters – while this “shadow delinquency” number is not coming down to any material degree, and these people are not being foreclosed upon.
I like the approach taken by Mr. Solomon, and hope that it spreads. In addition one has to wonder if the municipal governments could adopt a similar strategy, forcing the banks to disgorge these notes – either crap or get off the pot, so to speak.
But in point of fact the real problem lies with the so-called regulators at the OCC, FDIC and Fed who won’t regulate, even though the black-letter of the law (remember that thing called “Prompt Corrective Action”?) requires them to do so.
Fixing that, I suspect, will require the insertion of an “Or Else” into the law by Congress so that civil or even criminal penalties can be applied to these agencies and their employees who act more in conspiracy with the big bank in the cooking of their books than in the enforcement of the law.
After all, our intrepid OTS did conspire with Indymac to falsely state the bank’s health by backdating deposits. And even better, the OTS employee involved did the same thing during the S&L crisis, and not only did he not get indicted and prosecuted for it, he kept his job!
Your government-sponsored and enhanced looting operation at work.