Wal-Mart

CHRISTMAS IN OCTOBER – DESPERATE MEASURES

Off the Keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on October 25, 2014

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The desperation of retailers grows by the day. I head to Wal-Mart and Giant in Harleysville every Sunday morning at 7:00 am. to do my weekly grocery shopping. I go to Wal-Mart at opening to avoid the freaks we see weekly on the People of Wal-Mart post. The workers at Wal-Mart are only a small step above the customers. They can barely communicate, rarely look you in the eye, and generally act like they are prisoners in an asylum.

I’m in winter/bad times ahead prep mode. I had a load of fire wood delivered yesterday which I wheelbarrowed to the back yard and stacked with my already decent sized stack. Last week I took an empty propane canister back to Wal-Mart to replace it with a full canister. That would give me three full propane tanks. I left the empty tank outside next to the propane cage and went in to pay. The old lady cashier with the gravelly smoker voice told me she would call for someone to get me a new tank.

I went over the cage and patiently waited for a Wal-Mart drone to come out, unlock the propane cage and give me a full tank. Two minutes, five minutes, and eventually ten minutes go by with no one coming out to help me. The cashier pokes her head out the door and shrugs her shoulders and says no one is responding to her calls. What a well oiled machine they have at Wal-Mart. Eventually the old lady abandoned her cashier post and in a painstakingly slow manner proceeded to unlock one bin after another until she found a full tank. I’m sure a line of unhappy customers were piling up at the only register in the garden center while she spent ten minutes getting me my propane tank.

A transaction that should have taken five minutes from start to finish ended up taking closer to twenty five minutes, with another five or six customers also dissatisfied with their extra long wait. This is a perfect example of how not to do business. Maybe Wal-Mart’s problems are bigger than households having less to spend. They are attempting to maintain their profit margins by reducing staff hours, hiring low quality people, and paying them shit wages. In the short run it may keep profits higher, but in the long-run customers will go elsewhere. Except most of the elsewhere stores closed up years ago when Wal-Mart arrived and underpriced them into bankruptcy.

My shopping experience at Giant is generally pleasant. The staff are nice, competent, and have been there for years. They know what they are doing and serve you with a smile. But their store is part of a worldwide conglomerate, so things have changed for the worse over the last four months. They renovated the entire store, creating bigger aisles and moving stuff around. That’s annoying, but after a while you figure out where they moved the stuff you want. The real negative change was the dreaded “Everyday Low Pricing”. This weasel phrase means you will be paying more. This is what the Apple idiot CEO – Ron Johnson – did at JC Penney. It put them on a rapid path to bankruptcy.

The weekly sale items at Giant have virtually disappeared. This has coincided with the drastic increase in beef, pork and fresh produce prices. Since “Every Day Low Pricing” went into affect our weekly grocery bill has gone up 20%. And I am buying far less beef and more chicken. In the past I would stock up on sale items and put beef, pork and whatever was on sale in our storage area freezer. Now I am stuck buying what we need that week. No bargains, just fully priced food items. Be forewarned, whenever you see a store announce “Everyday Low Pricing” you are getting screwed.

The Boos Begin in August & Bells Start Jingling in October

The desperation of Wal-Mart and most of the other mega-retail chains is no more clearly evident than in their relentlessly ridiculous acceleration of holiday marketing displays. I was flabbergasted when I saw Halloween candy, decorations and costumes in row after row BEFORE Labor Day at my local Wal-Mart. Selling Halloween candy two months before Halloween is idiotic and a sure sign of desperation. Retailers have run out of merchandising ideas. I wouldn’t even consider buying Halloween candy until the week before Halloween. Do Wal-Mart freaks of the week actually buy Halloween merchandise in September?

Holidays used to be special occasions that lent a sense of sales urgency for retailers for a week or two, to pump up sales. Now Wal-Mart and the rest of the dying retailers have Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, and Halloween displays up for 80% of the year. There is no sense of urgency to buy. From September 1 though October 31 there are rows and rows of bags of corporate produced chemicals disguised as candy. I suppose the obese masses buy this crap in anticipation of Halloween, tell themselves they’ll only take one, and then shovel the entire bag down their gullets.

So last week, still a full two weeks before Halloween, Wal-Mart had already converted their entire garden center into a Christmas wonderland of cheap mass produced Chinese cookie cutter Christmas decorations and lights that will blow out after three hours of use. They had also converted aisles at the front of the store to Christmas displays. Who the hell shops for Christmas crap in October? There is nothing like having cheap Chinese Christmas crap available for over two months to create a sense of urgency to buy. Wal-Mart and the rest of the mega-retailers have got nothin. They have no original merchandising ideas. They don’t even try anymore. They source low quality goods from China and compete solely on price. I can’t wait for the Easter candy to appear on Wal-Mart’s shelves in late December.

Black Thanksgiving

Black Friday is dead. Long live Black Thanksgiving. The riots and stampedes by the ignorant masses for toasters and HDTVs on Black Friday are now being replaced by retailers and malls across America opening at 6:00 pm on Thanksgiving. It actually seems fitting. How better to give thanks for our mass consumption, debt financed, materialistic, iGadget addicted society than to open stores on Thanksgiving. Spending time with family is overrated anyway. If you had to spend six hours with cousin Eddie and aunt Bethany, you’d be looking forward to an early opening at Macy’s.

The bullshit message from the mega-retailers is: “We’re not opening on Thanksgiving out of desperation or greed. We’re doing it simply to satisfy the demands of our customers”. It’s a racist national holiday anyway. We should be going to an Indian run casino on Thanksgiving to make up for our past sins. Opening stores and forcing workers to work on Thanksgiving is pathetic, disgusting and a truly desperate measure in this consumer empire in decline. The law of diminishing returns has been invoked upon the mega-retailers that dominate our suburban sprawl paradise.

These retailers can start holiday merchandising three months before the actual holiday. They can open their doors on Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas. It’s nothing more than shuffling the deck furniture on the Titanic. We’ve allowed bankers, politicians and corporate titans to financialize our economy, gutting the once thriving middle class, sending manufacturing jobs overseas, and convincing the clueless masses that consumer goods purchased with debt is equal to wealth. But, we’ve reached the point of no return. There are 248 million working age Americans and 102 million of them are not employed. Of the 146 million working Americans, 82 million of them make less than $30,000 per year.

While retailers have added billions of square feet since 1989, real median net worth is 5% lower over 24 years. Retailers are attempting to get blood from a stone. The stone is in debt, approaching retirement with no savings and dead broke.

We have one entity that deserves the most credit for destroying the American Dream. Real median household income is lower than it was in 1989. The 2008 collapse was caused by the easy money bubble machine at the Federal Reserve. We had the opportunity to hit the reset button, implement rational economic and monetary policies, take our lumps, and make the banking culprits pay for their crimes. Instead, the easily manipulated masses believed the Wall Street storyline and allowed the Federal Reserve and feckless politicians to save the banking cabal with extreme money printing and debt creation. This has pushed the middle class closer to the breaking point, while further enriching the oligarchs. The Federal Reserve saved their owners and lured the masses further into debt.

The Fed, Wall Street, and Washington DC have successfully driven consumer debt to an all-time high, blasting through the $3 trillion level. Declining real incomes and rising debt are a sure recipe for success.

Our entire economic paradigm is built upon desperate measures. Zero interest rates, $3 trillion of QE, systematic accounting fraud, fudged economic data, and doling out subprime loans to auto renters and University of Phoenix wannabes have failed to revive our moribund economy. Delusions don’t die easily. But they do die. We are reaching the limit of this delusionary dream built upon debt, denial, and deception. Make sure you wolf down that Thanksgiving feast before 5:00 pm. There are HDTV’s to fight for at 6:00 pm.

Retail Death Rattle Grows Louder

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on May 25, 2014

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The definition of death rattle is a sound often produced by someone who is near death when fluids such as saliva and bronchial secretions accumulate in the throat and upper chest. The person can’t swallow and emits a deepening wheezing sound as they gasp for breath. This can go on for two or three days before death relieves them of their misery. The American retail industry is emitting an unmistakable wheezing sound as a long slow painful death approaches.

It was exactly four months ago when I wrote THE RETAIL DEATH RATTLE. Here are a few terse anecdotes from that article:

The absolute collapse in retail visitor counts is the warning siren that this country is about to collide with the reality Americans have run out of time, money, jobs, and illusions. The exponential growth model, built upon a never ending flow of consumer credit and an endless supply of cheap fuel, has reached its limit of growth. The titans of Wall Street and their puppets in Washington D.C. have wrung every drop of faux wealth from the dying middle class. There are nothing left but withering carcasses and bleached bones.

Once the Wall Street created fraud collapsed and the waves of delusion subsided, retailers have been revealed to be swimming naked. Their relentless expansion, based on exponential growth, cannibalized itself, new store construction ground to a halt, sales and profits have declined, and the inevitable closing of thousands of stores has begun.

The implications of this long and winding road to ruin are far reaching. Store closings so far have only been a ripple compared to the tsunami coming to right size the industry for a future of declining spending. Over the next five to ten years, tens of thousands of stores will be shuttered. Companies like JC Penney, Sears and Radio Shack will go bankrupt and become historical footnotes. Considering retail employment is lower today than it was in 2002 before the massive retail expansion, the future will see in excess of 1 million retail workers lose their jobs. Bernanke and the Feds have allowed real estate mall owners to roll over non-performing loans and pretend they are generating enough rental income to cover their loan obligations. As more stores go dark, this little game of extend and pretend will come to an end.

Retail store results for the 1st quarter of 2014 have been rolling in over the last week. It seems the hideous government reported retail sales results over the last six months are being confirmed by the dying bricks and mortar mega-chains. In case you missed the corporate mainstream media not reporting the facts and doing their usual positive spin, here are the absolutely dreadful headlines:

Wal-Mart Profit Plunges By $220 Million as US Store Traffic Declines by 1.4%

Target Profit Plunges by $80 Million, 16% Lower Than 2013, as Store Traffic Declines by 2.3%

Sears Loses $358 Million in First Quarter as Comparable Store Sales at Sears Plunge by 7.8% and Sales at Kmart Plunge by 5.1%

JC Penney Thrilled With Loss of Only $358 Million For the Quarter

Kohl’s Operating Income Plunges by 17% as Comparable Sales Decline by 3.4%

Costco Profit Declines by $84 Million as Comp Store Sales Only Increase by 2%

Staples Profit Plunges by 44% as Sales Collapse and Closing Hundreds of Stores

Gap Income Drops 22% as Same Store Sales Fall

American Eagle Profits Tumble 86%, Will Close 150 Stores

Aeropostale Losses $77 Million as Sales Collapse by 12%

Best Buy Sales Decline by $300 Million as Margins Decline and Comparable Store Sales Decline by 1.3%

Macy’s Profit Flat as Comparable Store Sales decline by 1.4%

Dollar General Profit Plummets by 40% as Comp Store Sales Decline by 3.8%

Urban Outfitters Earnings Collapse by 20% as Sales Stagnate

McDonalds Earnings Fall by $66 Million as US Comp Sales Fall by 1.7%

Darden Profit Collapses by 30% as Same Restaurant Sales Plunge by 5.6% and Company Selling Red Lobster

TJX Misses Earnings Expectations as Sales & Earnings Flat

Dick’s Misses Earnings Expectations as Golf Store Sales Plummet

Home Depot Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic Only Rises by 2.2%

Lowes Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic was Flat

Of course, those headlines were never reported. I went to each earnings report and gathered the info that should have been reported by the CNBC bimbos and hacks. Anything you heard surely had a Wall Street spin attached, like the standard BETTER THAN EXPECTED. I love that one. At the start of the quarter the Wall Street shysters post earnings expectations. As the quarter progresses, the company whispers the bad news to Wall Street and the earnings expectations are lowered. Then the company beats the lowered earnings expectation by a penny and the Wall Street scum hail it as a great achievement.  The muppets must be sacrificed to sustain the Wall Street bonus pool. Wall Street investment bank geniuses rated JC Penney a buy from $85 per share in 2007 all the way down to $5 a share in 2013. No more needs to be said about Wall Street “analysis”.

It seems even the lowered expectation scam hasn’t worked this time. U.S. retailer profits have missed lowered expectations by the most in 13 years. They generally “beat” expectations by 3% when the game is being played properly. They’ve missed expectations in the 1st quarter by 3.2%, the worst miss since the fourth quarter of 2000. If my memory serves me right, I believe the economy entered recession shortly thereafter. The brilliant Ivy League trained Wall Street MBAs, earning high six digit salaries on Wall Street, predicted a 13% increase in retailer profits for the first quarter. A monkey with a magic 8 ball could do a better job than these Wall Street big swinging dicks.

The highly compensated flunkies who sit in the corner CEO office of the mega-retail chains trotted out the usual drivel about cold and snowy winter weather and looking forward to tremendous success over the remainder of the year. How do these excuse machine CEO’s explain the success of many high end retailers during the first quarter? Doesn’t weather impact stores that cater to the .01%? The continued unrelenting decline in profits of retailers, dependent upon the working class, couldn’t have anything to do with this chart? It seems only the oligarchs have made much progress over the last four decades.

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Retail CEO gurus all think they have a master plan to revive sales. I’ll let you in on a secret. They don’t really have a plan. They have no idea why they experienced tremendous success from 2000 through 2007, and why their businesses have not revived since the 2008 financial collapse. Retail CEOs are not the sharpest tools in the shed. They were born on third base and thought they hit a triple. Now they are stranded there, with no hope of getting home. They should be figuring out how to position themselves for the multi-year contraction in sales, but their egos and hubris will keep them from taking the actions necessary to keep their companies afloat in the next decade. Bankruptcy awaits. The front line workers will be shit canned and the CEO will get a golden parachute. It’s the American way.

The secret to retail success before 2007 was: create or copy a successful concept; get Wall Street financing and go public ASAP; source all your inventory from Far East slave labor factories; hire thousands of minimum wage level workers to process transactions; build hundreds of new stores every year to cover up the fact the existing stores had deteriorating performance; convince millions of gullible dupes to buy cheap Chinese shit they didn’t need with money they didn’t have; and pretend this didn’t solely rely upon cheap easy debt pumped into the veins of American consumers by the Federal Reserve and their Wall Street bank owners. The financial crisis in 2008 revealed everyone was swimming naked, when the tide of easy credit subsided.

The pundits, politicians and delusional retail CEOs continue to await the revival of retail sales as if reality doesn’t exist. The 1 million retail stores, 109,000 shopping centers, and nearly 15 billion square feet of retail space for an aging, increasingly impoverished, and savings poor populace might be a tad too much and will require a slight downsizing – say 3 or 4 billion square feet. Considering the debt fueled frenzy from 2000 through 2008 added 2.7 billion square feet to our suburban sprawl concrete landscape, a divestiture of that foolish investment will be the floor. If you think there are a lot of SPACE AVAILABLE signs dotting the countryside, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The mega-chains have already halted all expansion. That was the first step. The weaker players like Radio Shack, Sears, Family Dollar, Coldwater Creek, Staples, Barnes & Noble, Blockbuster and dozens of others are already closing stores by the hundreds. Thousands more will follow.

This isn’t some doom and gloom prediction based on nothing but my opinion. This is the inevitable result of demographic certainties, unequivocal data, and the consequences of a retailer herd mentality and lemming like behavior of consumers. The open and shut case for further shuttering of 3 to 4 billion square feet of retail is as follows:

  • There is 47 square feet of retail space per person in America. This is 8 times as much as any other country on earth. This is up from 38 square feet in 2005; 30 square feet in 2000; 19 square feet in 1990; and 4 square feet in 1960. If we just revert to 2005 levels, 3 billion square feet would need to go dark. Does that sound outrageous?

  • Annual consumer expenditures by those over 65 years old drop by 40% from their highest spending years from 45 to 54 years old. The number of Americans turning 65 will increase by 10,000 per day for the next 16 years. There were 35 million Americans over 65 in 2000, accounting for 12% of the total population. By 2030 there will be 70 million Americans over 65, accounting for 20% of the total population. Do you think that bodes well for retailers?

  • Half of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 have no retirement savings. The other half has accumulated $52,000 or less. It seems the debt financed consumer product orgy of the last two decades has left most people nearly penniless. More than 50% of workers aged 25 to 44 report they have less than $10,000 of total savings.

  • The lack of retirement and general savings is reflected in the historically low personal savings rate of a miniscule 3.8%. Before the materialistic frenzy of the last couple decades, rational Americans used to save 10% or more of their personal income. With virtually no savings as they approach their retirement years and an already extremely low savings rate, do retail CEOs really see a spending revival on the horizon?

  • If you thought the savings rate was so low because consumers are flush with cash and so optimistic about their job prospects they are unconcerned about the need to save for a rainy day, you would be wrong. It has been raining for the last 14 years. Real median household income is 7.5% lower today than it was in 2001. Retailers added 2.7 billion square feet of retail space as real household income fell. Sounds rational.

  • This decline in household income may have something to do with the labor participation rate plummeting to the lowest level since 1978. There are 247.4 million working age Americans and only 145.7 million of them employed (19 million part-time; 9 million self-employed; 20 million employed by the government). There are 92 million Americans, who according to the government have willingly left the workforce, up by 13.3 million since 2007 when over 146 million Americans were employed. You’d have to be a brainless twit to believe the unemployment rate is really 6.3% today. Retail sales would be booming if the unemployment rate was really that low.

  • With a 16.5% increase in working age Americans since 2000 and only a 6.5% increase in employed Americans, along with declining real household income, an inquisitive person might wonder how retail sales were able to grow from $3.3 trillion in 2000 to $5.1 trillion in 2013 – a 55% increase. You need to look no further than your friendly Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks for the answer. In the olden days of the 1970s and early 1980s Americans put 10% to 20% down to buy a house and then systematically built up equity by making their monthly payments. The Ivy League financial engineers created “exotic” (toxic) mortgage products requiring no money down, no principal payments, and no proof you could make a payment, in their control fraud scheme to fleece the American sheeple. Their propaganda machine convinced millions more to use their homes as an ATM, because home prices never drop. Just ask Ben Bernanke. Even after the Bernanke/Blackrock fake housing recovery (actual mortgage originations now at 1978 levels) household real estate percent equity is barely above 50%, well below the 70% levels before the Wall Street induced debt debacle. With the housing market about to head south again, the home equity ATM will have an Out of Order sign on it.

  • We hear the endless drivel from disingenuous Keynesian nitwits about government and consumer austerity being the cause of our stagnating economy. My definition of austerity would be an actual reduction in spending and debt accumulation. It seems during this time of austerity total credit market debt has RISEN from $53.5 trillion in 2009 to $59 trillion today. Not exactly austere, as the Federal government adds $2.2 billion PER DAY to the national debt, saddling future generations with the bill for our inability to confront reality. The American consumer has not retrenched, as the CNBC bimbos and bozos would have you believe. Consumer credit reached an all-time high of $3.14 trillion in March, up from $2.52 trillion in 2010. That doesn’t sound too austere to me. Of course, this increase is solely due to Obamanomics and Bernanke’s $3 trillion gift to his Wall Street owners. The doling out of $645 billion to subprime college “students” and subprime auto “buyers” since 2010 accounts for more than 100% of the increase. The losses on these asinine loans will be epic. Credit card debt has actually fallen as people realize it is their last lifeline. They are using credit cards to pay income taxes, real estate taxes, higher energy costs, higher food costs, and the other necessities of life.

The entire engineered “recovery” since 2009 has been nothing but a Federal Reserve/U.S. Treasury conceived, debt manufactured scam. These highly educated lackeys for the establishment have been tasked with keeping the U.S. Titanic afloat until the oligarchs can safely depart on the lifeboats with all the ship’s jewels safely stowed in their pockets. There has been no housing recovery. There has been no jobs recovery. There has been no auto sales recovery. Giving a vehicle to someone with a 580 credit score with a 0% seven year loan is not a sale. It’s a repossession in waiting. The government supplied student loans are going to functional illiterates who are majoring in texting, facebooking and twittering. Do you think these indebted University of Phoenix dropouts living in their parents’ basements are going to spur a housing and retail sales recovery? This Keynesian “solution” was designed to produce the appearance of recovery, convince the masses to resume their debt based consumption, and add more treasure into the vaults of the Wall Street banks.

The master plan has failed miserably in reviving the economy. Savings, capital investment, and debt reduction are the necessary ingredients for a sustained healthy economic system. Debt based personal consumption of cheap foreign produced baubles & gadgets, $1 trillion government deficits to sustain the warfare/welfare state, along with a corrupt political and rigged financial system are the explosive concoction which will blow our economic system sky high. Facts can be ignored. Media propaganda can convince the willfully ignorant to remain so. The Federal Reserve can buy every Treasury bond issued to fund an out of control government. But eventually reality will shatter the delusions of millions as the debt based Ponzi scheme will run out of dupes and collapse in a flaming heap.

The inevitable shuttering of at least 3 billion square feet of retail space is a certainty. The aging demographics of the U.S. population, dire economic situation of both young and old, and sheer lunacy of the retail expansion since 2000, guarantee a future of ghost malls, decaying weed infested empty parking lots, retailer bankruptcies, real estate developer bankruptcies, massive loan losses for the banking industry, and the loss of millions of retail jobs. Since I always look for a silver lining in a black cloud, I predict a bright future for the SPACE AVAILABLE and GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sign making companies.

The Retail Death Rattle

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

Published on The Burning Platform on January 20, 2012

Death-Rattle

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“I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest, to make money they don’t want, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.”Emile Gauvreau

If ever a chart provided unequivocal proof the economic recovery storyline is a fraud, the one below is the smoking gun. November and December retail sales account for 20% to 40% of annual retail sales for most retailers. The number of visits to retail stores has plummeted by 50% since 2010. Please note this was during a supposed economic recovery. Also note consumer spending accounts for 70% of GDP. Also note credit card debt outstanding is 7% lower than its level in 2010 and 16% below its peak in 2008. Retailers like J.C. Penney, Best Buy, Sears, Radio Shack and Barnes & Noble continue to report appalling sales and profit results, along with listings of store closings. Even the heavyweights like Wal-Mart and Target continue to report negative comp store sales. How can the government and mainstream media be reporting an economic recovery when the industry that accounts for 70% of GDP is in free fall? The answer is that 99% of America has not had an economic recovery. Only Bernanke’s 1% owner class have benefited from his QE/ZIRP induced stock market levitation.

The entire economic recovery storyline is a sham built upon easy money funneled by the Fed to the Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks so they can use their HFT supercomputers to drive the stock market higher, buy up the millions of homes they foreclosed upon to artificially drive up home prices, and generate profits through rigging commodity, currency, and bond markets, while reducing loan loss reserves because they are free to value their toxic assets at anything they please – compliments of the spineless nerds at the FASB. GDP has been artificially propped up by the Federal government through the magic of EBT cards, SSDI for the depressed and downtrodden, never ending extensions of unemployment benefits, billions in student loans to University of Phoenix prodigies, and subprime auto loans to deadbeats from the Government Motors financing arm – Ally Financial (85% owned by you the taxpayer). The country is being kept afloat on an ocean of debt and delusional belief in the power of central bankers to steer this ship through a sea of icebergs just below the surface.

The absolute collapse in retail visitor counts is the warning siren that this country is about to collide with the reality Americans have run out of time, money, jobs, and illusions. The most amazingly delusional aspect to the chart above is retailers continued to add 44 million square feet in 2013 to the almost 15 billion existing square feet of retail space in the U.S. That is approximately 47 square feet of retail space for every person in America. Retail CEOs are not the brightest bulbs in the sale bin, as exhibited by the CEO of Target and his gross malfeasance in protecting his customers’ personal financial information. Of course, the 44 million square feet added in 2013 is down 85% from the annual increases from 2000 through 2008. The exponential growth model, built upon a never ending flow of consumer credit and an endless supply of cheap fuel, has reached its limit of growth. The titans of Wall Street and their puppets in Washington D.C. have wrung every drop of faux wealth from the dying middle class. There are nothing left but withering carcasses and bleached bones.

The impact of this retail death spiral will be vast and far reaching. A few factoids will help you understand the coming calamity:

  • There are approximately 109,500 shopping centers in the United States ranging in size from the small convenience centers to the large super-regional malls.
  • There are in excess of 1 million retail establishments in the United States occupying 15 billion square feet of space and generating over $4.4 trillion of annual sales. This includes 8,700 department stores, 160,000 clothing & accessory stores, and 8,600 game stores.
  • U.S. shopping-center retail sales total more than $2.26 trillion, accounting for over half of all retail sales.
  • The U.S. shopping-center industry directly employed over 12 million people in 2010 and indirectly generated another 5.6 million jobs in support industries. Collectively, the industry accounted for 12.7% of total U.S. employment.
  • Total retail employment in 2012 totaled 14.9 million, lower than the 15.1 million employed in 2002.
  • For every 100 individuals directly employed at a U.S. regional shopping center, an additional 20 to 30 jobs are supported in the community due to multiplier effects.

The collapse in foot traffic to the 109,500 shopping centers that crisscross our suburban sprawl paradise of plenty is irreversible. No amount of marketing propaganda, 50% off sales, or hot new iGadgets is going to spur a dramatic turnaround. Quarter after quarter there will be more announcements of store closings. Macys just announced the closing of 5 stores and firing of 2,500 retail workers. JC Penney just announced the closing of 33 stores and firing of 2,000 retail workers. Announcements are imminent from Sears, Radio Shack and a slew of other retailers who are beginning to see the writing on the wall. The vacancy rate will be rising in strip malls, power malls and regional malls, with the largest growing sector being ghost malls. Before long it will appear that SPACE AVAILABLE is the fastest growing retailer in America.

The reason this death spiral cannot be reversed is simply a matter of arithmetic and demographics. While arrogant hubristic retail CEOs of public big box mega-retailers added 2.7 billion retail square feet to our already over saturated market, real median household income flat lined. The advancement in retail spending was attributable solely to the $1.1 trillion increase (68%) in consumer debt and the trillion dollars of home equity extracted from castles in the sky, that later crashed down to earth. Once the Wall Street created fraud collapsed and the waves of delusion subsided, retailers have been revealed to be swimming naked. Their relentless expansion, based on exponential growth, cannibalized itself, new store construction ground to a halt, sales and profits have declined, and the inevitable closing of thousands of stores has begun. With real median household income 8% lower than it was in 2008, the collapse in retail traffic is a rational reaction by the impoverished 99%. Americans are using their credit cards to pay their real estate taxes, income taxes, and monthly utilities, since their income is lower, and their living expenses rise relentlessly, thanks to Bernanke and his Fed created inflation.

The media mouthpieces for the establishment gloss over the fact average gasoline prices in 2013 were the second highest in history. The highest average price was in 2012 and the 3rd highest average price was in 2011. These prices are 150% higher than prices in the early 2000′s. This might not matter to the likes of Jamie Dimon and Jon Corzine, but for a middle class family with two parents working and making 7.5% less than they made in 2000, it has a dramatic impact on discretionary income. The fact oil prices have risen from $25 per barrel in 2003 to $100 per barrel today has not only impacted gas prices, but utility costs, food costs, and the price of any product that needs to be transported to your local Wally World. The outrageous rise in tuition prices has been aided and abetted by the Federal government and their doling out of loans so diploma mills like the University of Phoenix can bilk clueless dupes into thinking they are on their way to an exciting new career, while leaving them jobless in their parents’ basement with a loan payment for life.

The laughable jobs recovery touted by Obama, his sycophantic minions, paid off economist shills, and the discredited corporate legacy media can be viewed appropriately in the following two charts, that reveal the false storyline being peddled to the techno-narcissistic iGadget distracted masses. There are 247 million working age Americans between the ages of 18 and 64. Only 145 million of these people are employed. Of these employed, 19 million are working part-time and 9 million are self- employed. Another 20 million are employed by the government, producing nothing and being sustained by the few remaining producers with their tax dollars. The labor participation rate is the lowest it has been since women entered the workforce in large numbers during the 1980′s. We are back to levels seen during the booming Carter years. Those peddling the drivel about retiring Baby Boomers causing the decline in the labor participation rate are either math challenged or willfully ignorant because they are being paid to be so. Once you turn 65 you are no longer counted in the work force. The percentage of those over 55 in the workforce has risen dramatically to an all-time high, as the Me Generation never saved for retirement or saw their retirement savings obliterated in the Wall Street created 2008 financial implosion.

To understand the absolute idiocy of retail CEOs across the land one must parse the employment data back to 2000. In the year 2000 the working age population of the U.S. was 213 million and 136.9 million of them were working, a record level of 64.4% of the population. There were 70 million working age Americans not in the labor force. Fourteen years later the number of working age Americans is 247 million and only 144.6 million are working. The working age population has risen by 16% and the number of employed has risen by only 5.6%. That’s quite a success story. Of course, even though median household income is 7.5% lower than it was in 2000, the government expects you to believe that 22 million Americans voluntarily left the labor force because they no longer needed a job. While the number of employed grew by 5.6% over fourteen years, the number of people who left the workforce grew by 31.1%. Over this same time frame the mega-retailers that dominate the landscape added almost 3 billion square feet of selling space, a 25% increase. A critical thinking individual might wonder how this could possibly end well for the retail genius CEOs in glistening corporate office towers from coast to coast.

This entire materialistic orgy of consumerism has been sustained solely with debt peddled by the Wall Street banking syndicate. The average American consumer met their Waterloo in 2008. Bernanke’s mission was to save bankers, billionaires and politicians. It was not to save the working middle class. You’ve been sacrificed at the altar of the .1%. The 0% interest rates were for Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein. Your credit card interest rate remained between 13% and 21%. So, while you struggle to pay bills with your declining real income, the Wall Street bankers are again generating record profits and paying themselves record bonuses. Profits are so good, they can afford to pay tens of billions in fines for their criminal acts, and still be left with billions to divvy up among their non-prosecuted criminal executives.

Bernanke and his financial elite owners have been able to rig the markets to give the appearance of normalcy, but they cannot rig the demographic time bomb that will cause the death and destruction of our illusory retail paradigm. Demographics cannot be manipulated or altered by the government or mass media. The best they can do is ignore or lie about the facts. The life cycle of a human being is utterly predictable, along with their habits across time. Those under 25 years old have very little income, therefore they have very little spending. Once a job is attained and income levels rise, spending rises along with the increased income. As the person enters old age their income declines and spending on stuff declines rapidly. The media may be ignoring the fact that annual expenditures drop by 40% for those over 65 years old from the peak spending years of 45 to 54, but it doesn’t change the fact. They also cannot change the fact that 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day for the next sixteen years. They also can’t change the fact the average Baby Boomer has less than $50,000 saved for retirement and is up to their grey eye brows in debt.

With over 15% of all 25 to 34 year olds living in their parents’ basement and those under 25 saddled with billions in student loan debt, the traditional increase in income and spending is DOA for the millennial generation. The hardest hit demographic on the job front during the 2008 through 2014 ongoing recession has been the 45 to 54 year olds in their peak earning and spending years. Combine these demographic developments and you’ve got a perfect storm for over-built retailers and their egotistical CEOs.

The media continues to peddle the storyline of on-line sales saving the ancient bricks and mortar retailers. Again, the talking head pundits are willfully ignoring basic math. On-line sales account for 6% of total retail sales. If a dying behemoth like JC Penney announces a 20% decline in same store sales and a 20% increase in on-line sales, their total change is still negative 17.6%. And they are still left with 1,100 decaying stores, 100,000 employees, lease payments, debt payments, maintenance costs, utility costs, inventory costs, and pension costs. Their future is so bright they gotta wear a toe tag.

The decades of mal-investment in retail stores was enabled by Greenspan, Bernanke, and their Federal Reserve brethren. Their easy money policies enabled Americans to live far beyond their true means through credit card debt, auto debt, mortgage debt, and home equity debt. This false illusion of wealth and foolish spending led mega-retailers to ignore facts and spread like locusts across the suburban countryside. The debt fueled orgy has run out of steam. All that is left is the largest mountain of debt in human history, a gutted and debt laden former middle class, and thousands of empty stores in future decaying ghost malls haunting the highways and byways of suburbia.

The implications of this long and winding road to ruin are far reaching. Store closings so far have only been a ripple compared to the tsunami coming to right size the industry for a future of declining spending. Over the next five to ten years, tens of thousands of stores will be shuttered. Companies like JC Penney, Sears and Radio Shack will go bankrupt and become historical footnotes. Considering retail employment is lower today than it was in 2002 before the massive retail expansion, the future will see in excess of 1 million retail workers lose their jobs. Bernanke and the Feds have allowed real estate mall owners to roll over non-performing loans and pretend they are generating enough rental income to cover their loan obligations. As more stores go dark, this little game of extend and pretend will come to an end. Real estate developers will be going belly-up and the banking sector will be taking huge losses again. I’m sure the remaining taxpayers will gladly bailout Wall Street again. The facts are not debatable. They can be ignored by the politicians, Ivy League economists, media talking heads, and the willfully ignorant masses, but they do not cease to exist.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”Aldous Huxley

 

Trying to Stay Sane in an Insane World- At World’s End

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

Published on The Burning Platform on September 10, 2013

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Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

In the first three parts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) of this disheartening look back at a century of central banking, income taxing, military warring, energy depleting and political corrupting, I made a case for why we are in the midst of a financial, commercial, political, social and cultural collapse. In this final installment I’ll give my best estimate as to what happens next and it has a 100% probability of being wrong. There are so many variables involved that it is impossible to predict the exact path to our world’s end. Many people don’t want to hear about the intractable issues or the true reasons for our predicament. They want easy button solutions. They want someone or something to fix their problems. They pray for a technological miracle to save them from decades of irrational myopic decisions. As the domino-like collapse worsens, the feeble minded populace becomes more susceptible to the false promises of tyrants and psychopaths. There are a myriad of thugs, criminals, and autocrats in positions of power who are willing to exploit any means necessary to retain their wealth, power and control. The revelations of governmental malfeasance, un-Constitutional mass espionage of all citizens, and expansion of the Orwellian welfare/warfare surveillance state, from patriots like Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden has proven beyond a doubt the corrupt establishment are zealously anxious to discard and stomp on the U.S. Constitution in their desire for authoritarian control over our society.

Anyone who denies we are in the midst of an ongoing Crisis that will lead to a collapse of the system as we know it is either a card carrying member of the corrupt establishment, dependent upon the oligarchs for their living, or just one of the willfully ignorant ostriches who choose to put their heads in the sand and hum the Star Spangled Banner as they choose obliviousness to awareness. Thinking is hard. Feeling and believing a storyline is easy.

 

A moral society must be inhabited by an informed, educated, aware populace and   governed by honorable leaders who oversee based upon the nation’s founding principles of liberty, freedom and limited government of, by and for the people. A moral society requires trust, honor, property rights, simple just laws, and the freedom to succeed or fail on your own merits. There is one major problem in creating a true moral society where liberty, freedom, trust, honor and free markets are cherished – human beings. We are a deeply flawed species who are prone to falling prey to the depravities of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Men have always been captivated by the false idols of dominion, power and wealth. The foibles of human nature haven’t changed over the course of history. This is why we have 80 to 100 year cycles driven by the same human strengths and shortcomings revealed throughout recorded history.

Empires rise and fall due to the humanness of their leaders and citizens. The great American Empire is no different. It was created a mere 224 years ago by courageous patriots who risked their wealth and their lives to create a Republic founded upon the principles of freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; took a dreadful wrong turn in 1913 with the creation of a privately held central bank to control its currency and introduction of an income tax; devolved into an empire after World War II, setting it on a course towards bankruptcy; sealed its fate in 1971 by unleashing power hungry psychopathic elitists to manipulate the monetary and fiscal policies of the nation to enrich themselves; and has now entered the final frenzied phase of pillaging, currency debasement, war mongering, and ransacking of civil liberties. Despite the frantic efforts of the financial elite, their politician puppets, and their media propaganda outlets, collapse of this aristocracy of the moneyed is a mathematical certainty. Faith in the system is rapidly diminishing, as the issuance of debt to create the appearance of growth has reached the point of diminishing returns.

 

Increase in Real GDP per Dollar of Incremental Debt

“At the root of America’s economic crisis lies a moral crisis: the decline of civic virtue among America’s political and economic elite. A society of markets, laws, and elections is not enough if the rich and powerful fail to behave with respect, honesty, and compassion toward the rest of society and toward the world.”Jeffrey Sachs

Five Stages of Collapse

The day of reckoning for a century of putting our faith in the wrong people with wrong ideas and evil intentions is upon us. Dmitry Orlov provides a blueprint for the collapse in his book The Five Stages of Collapse – Survivors’ Toolkit:

Stage 1: Financial Collapse. Faith in “business as usual” is lost. The future is no longer assumed to resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Financial institutions become insolvent; savings wiped out and access to capital is lost.

Stage 2: Commercial Collapse. Faith that “the market shall provide” is lost. Money is devalued and/or becomes scarce, commodities are hoarded, import and retail chains break down and widespread shortages of survival necessities become the norm.

Stage 3: Political Collapse. Faith that “the government will take care of you” is lost. As official attempts to mitigate widespread loss of access to commercial sources of survival necessities fail to make a difference, the political establishment loses legitimacy and relevance.

Stage 4: Social Collapse. Faith that “your people will take care of you” is lost, as social institutions, be they charities or other groups that rush to fill the power vacuum, run out of resources or fail through internal conflict.

Stage 5: Cultural Collapse. Faith in the goodness of humanity is lost. People lose their capacity for “kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity.” Families disband and compete as individuals for scarce resources. The new motto becomes “May you die today so that I can die tomorrow.”

The collapse is occurring in fits and starts. The stages of collapse do not necessarily have to occur in order.  You can recognize various elements of the first three stages in the United States today. Stage 1 commenced in September 2008 when this Crisis period was catalyzed by the disintegration of the worldwide financial system caused by Wall Street intentionally creating the largest control fraud in world history, with easy money provided by Greenspan/Bernanke, fraudulent mortgage products, fake appraisals, bribing rating agencies to provide AAA ratings to derivatives filled with feces, and having their puppets in the media and political arena provide the propaganda to herd the sheep into the slaughterhouse.

The American people neglected their civic duty to elect leaders who would tell them the truth and represent current and future generations equally. They have neglected the increasing lawlessness of Wall Street, K Street and the corporate suite. The American people have lived in denial about their responsibility for their own financial well-being, willingly delegating it to a government of math challenged politicians who promised trillions more than they could ever deliver. The American people have delayed tackling the dire issues confronting our nation, including: $200 trillion of unfunded liabilities, the military industrial complex creating wars across the globe, militarization of our local police forces, domestic spying on every citizen, allowing mega-corporations and the financial elite to turn our nation from savings based production to debt based consumption, and allowing corporations, the military industrial complex, Wall Street, and shadowy billionaires to pick and control our elected officials. The civic fabric of the country is being torn at the points of extreme vulnerability.

“At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where, during the Unraveling, America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action. Anger at “mistakes we made” will translate into calls for action, regardless of the heightened public risk. It is unlikely that the catalyst will worsen into a full-fledged catastrophe, since the nation will probably find a way to avert the initial danger and stabilize the situation for a while. Yet even if dire consequences are temporarily averted, America will have entered the Fourth Turning.”  – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

Our Brave New World controllers (bankers, politicians, corporate titans, media moguls, shadowy billionaires) were able to avert a full-fledged catastrophe in the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009 which would have put an end to their reign of destruction. To accept the rightful consequences of their foul actions was intolerable to these obscenely wealthy, despicable men. Their loathsome and vile solutions to a crisis they created have done nothing to relieve the pain and suffering of the average person, while further enriching them, as they continue to gorge on the dying carcass of a once thriving nation. Despite overwhelming public outrage, Congress did as they were instructed by their Wall Street masters and handed over $700 billion of taxpayer funds into Wall Street vaults, under the false threat of systematic collapse. The $800 billion of pork stimulus was injected directly into the veins of corporate campaign contributors. The $3 billion Cash for Clunkers scheme resulted in pumping taxpayer dollars into the government owned union car companies, while driving up the prices of used cars and hurting lower income folks.

Ben Bernanke has peddled the false paradigm of quantitative easing (code for printing money and airlifting it to Wall Street) as benefitting Main Street. Nothing could be further from the truth. He bought $1.3 trillion of toxic mortgage backed securities from his Wall Street owners. He has pumped a total of $2.8 trillion into the hands of Wall Street since September 2008, and is singlehandedly generating $5 billion of risk free profits for these deadbeats by paying them .25% on their reserves. Drug dealer Ben continues to pump $2.8 billion per day into the veins of Wall Street addicts and any hint of tapering the heroin causes the addicts to flail about. Ben should be so proud. He should hang a Mission Accomplished banner whenever he gives a speech. Bank profits reached an all-time record in the 2nd quarter, at $42.2 billion, with 80% of those profits going to the 2% Too Big To Trust Wall Street Mega-Goliath Banks. It’s enough to make a soon to retire, and take a Wall Street job, central banker smile.

“The money rate can, indeed, be kept artificially low only by continuous new injections of currency or bank credit in place of real savings. This can create the illusion of more capital just as the addition of water can create the illusion of more milk. But it is a policy of continuous inflation. It is obviously a process involving cumulative danger. The money rate will rise and a crisis will develop if the inflation is reversed, or merely brought to a halt, or even continued at a diminished rate. Cheap money policies, in short, eventually bring about far more violent oscillations in business  than those they are designed to remedy or prevent.” Henry Hazlitt – 1946

Any serious minded person knew Wall Street had too much power, too much control, and too much influence in 2008 when they crashed our economic system. When something is too big to fail because it will create systematic collapse, you make it smaller. Instead we have allowed our sociopathic rulers to allow these parasitic institutions to get even larger. Just 12 mega-banks control 70% of all the banking assets in the country, with 90% controlled by the top 86 banks. There are approximately 8,000 financial institutions in this country. Wall Street will be congratulating themselves with record compensation of $127 billion and record bonuses of $23 billion for a job well done. It is dangerous work making journal entries relieving loan loss reserves, committing foreclosure fraud, marking your assets to unicorn, making deposits at the Fed, and counting on the Bernanke Put to keep stocks rising. During a supposed recovery from 2009 to 2011, average real income per household grew pitifully by 1.7%, but all the gains accrued to Bernanke’s minions. Top 1% incomes grew by 11.2% while bottom 99% incomes shrunk by 0.4%. Therefore, the top 1% captured 121% of the income gains in the first two years of the recovery. This warped trend has only accelerated since 2011.

The median household income has fallen by $2,400 to $52,100 since the government proclaimed the end of the recession in 2009. Real wages for real people continue to fall. A record 23.1 million households (20% of all households) are receiving food stamps. After four years of “recovery” propaganda, we are left with 2.2 million less people employed (5 million less full time jobs) and 22 million more people on SNAP and SSDI. A record 90.5 million working age Americans are not working, with labor participation at a 35 year low. Ben’s money has not trickled down, but his inflation has fallen like a load of bricks on the heads of the middle class. Bernanke’s QE to infinity constitutes a transfer of purchasing power away from the middle class to the bankers, mega-corporations and .1%. This Cantillon effect means that newly created money is neither distributed evenly nor simultaneously among the population. Some users of money profit from rising prices, and others suffer from them. This results in a transfer of wealth (a hidden tax) from later receivers to earlier receivers of new money. This is why the largest banks and largest corporations are generating the highest profits in history, while the average person sinks further into debt as their real income declines and real living expenses (energy, food, clothing, healthcare, tuition) rise.

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Ben works for your owners. Real GDP (using the fake government inflation adjustment) since July 2009 is up by a wretched 5.6%. Revenue growth of the biggest corporations in the world is up by a pathetic 12%. One might wonder how corporate profits could be at record levels with such doleful economic performance. One needs to look no further than Ben’s balance sheet, which has increased by 174%. There appears to be a slight correlation between Ben’s money printing and the 162% increase in the S&P 500 index. With the top 1% owning 42.1% of all financial assets (top .1% own most of this) and the bottom 80% owning only 4.7% of all financial assets, one can clearly see who benefits from QE to infinity.

The key take away from what the ruling class has done since 2008 is they have only temporarily delayed the endgame. Their self-serving exploits have guaranteed that round two of the financial collapse will be epic in proportion and intensity. This Fourth Turning Crisis is ongoing. The linear thinkers who control the levers of power keep promising a return to normalcy and resumption of growth. This is an impossibility – mathematically & socially. Fourth Turnings do not end without the existing social order being swept away in a tsunami of turmoil, violence, suffering and war. Orlov’s stages of collapse will likely occur during the remaining fifteen years of this Crisis. We are deep into Stage 1 as our national Detroitification progresses towards bankruptcy, with an added impetus from our trillion dollar wars of choice in the Middle East. Commercial collapse has begun, as faith in the fantasy of free market capitalism is waning. The race to the bottom with currency debasement around the globe is reaching a tipping point, and the true eternal currencies of gold and silver are being hoarded and shipped from the West to the Far East.

Monetary Base (billions of USD)

When the financial collapse reaches its crescendo, the just in time supply chain, that keeps cheese doodles and cheese whiz on your grocery store shelves, Chinese produced iGadgets in your local Wal-Mart Supercenter, and gasoline flowing out of gas station hoses into your leased Cadillac Escalade, will break down rapidly. The strain of $110 oil is already evident. The fireworks will really get going when ATM machines run dry and the EBT cards stop functioning. Within a week riots and panic will engulf the country.

“At some point we are bound to hear, from across two oceans, the shocking words “Your money is no good here.” Fast forward to a week later: banks are closed, ATMs are out of cash, supermarket shelves are bare and gas stations are starting to run out of fuel. And then something happens: the government announces they have formed a crisis task force, and will nationalize, recapitalize and reopen banks, restoring confidence. The banks reopen, under heavy guard, and thousands of people get arrested for attempting to withdraw their savings. Banks close, riots begin. Next, the government decides that, to jump-start commerce, it will honor deposit guarantees and simply hand out cash. They print and arrange for the cash to be handed out. Now everyone has plenty of cash, but there is still no food in the supermarkets or gasoline at the gas stations because by now the international supply chains have broken down and the delivery pipelines are empty.”  Dmitry Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

We are witnessing the beginning stages of political collapse. The government and its leaders are being discredited on a daily basis. The mismanagement of fiscal policy, foreign policy and domestic policy, along with the revelations of the NSA conducting mass surveillance against all Americans has led critical thinking Americans to question the legitimacy of the politicians running the show on behalf of the bankers, corporations and arms dealers. The Gestapo like tactics used by the government in Boston was an early warning sign of what is to come. Government entitlement promises will vaporize, as they did in Detroit, with pension promises worth only ten cents on the dollar. Total social and cultural collapse could resemble the chaotic civil war scenarios playing out in Libya and Syria. The best case scenario would be for a collapse similar to the Soviet Union’s relatively peaceful disintegration into impotent republics. I don’t believe we’ll be this fortunate. The most powerful military empire in world history will not fade away. It will go out in a blaze of glory with a currency collapse, hyper-inflation, and war on a grand scale.

“History offers even more sobering warnings: Armed confrontation usually occurs around the climax of Crisis. If there is confrontation, it is likely to lead to war. This could be any kind of war – class war, sectional war, war against global anarchists or terrorists, or superpower war. If there is war, it is likely to culminate in total war, fought until the losing side has been rendered nil – its will broken, territory taken, and leaders captured.”The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

In Whom Do You Trust?

“Use of money concentrates trust in a single central authority – the central bank – and, over extended periods of time, central banks always tend to misbehave. Eventually the “print” button on the central banker’s emergency console becomes stuck in the depressed position, flooding the world with worthless notes. People trust that money will remain a store of value, and once the trust is violated a gigantic black hole appears at the very center of society, sucking in peoples’ savings and aspirations along with their sense of self-worth. When those who have become psychologically dependent on money as a yardstick, to be applied to everything and everyone, suddenly find themselves in a world where money means nothing, it is as if they have gone blind; they see shapes but can no longer resolve them into objects. The result is anomie – a sense of unreality – accompanied by deep depression. Money is an addiction – substance-less and unreal, and sets itself up for a severe and lengthy withdrawal.” Dmitry Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

Our modern world revolves around wealth, the appearance of wealth, the false creation of wealth through the issuance of debt, and trust in the bankers and politicians pulling the levers behind the curtain. The entire world economic system is dependent on trusting central bankers whose only response to any crisis is to create more debt. The death knell is ringing loud and clear, but people around the globe are desperately clinging to their normalcy biases and praying to the gods of cognitive dissonance. It seems the only things that matter to our controllers are stock market levels, the continued flow of debt to the plebs, continued doling out of hush money to those on the dole, and of course an endless supply of brown skinned enemies to attack. With every country in the world attempting to the same solution of debasing their currencies, we are rapidly approaching the tipping point. India is the canary in the coal mine.

Government, Household, Financial & Non-Financial Debt (% of GDP)

An exponential growth model built upon cheap plentiful energy and debt creation has its limits, and we’ve reached them. With the depletion of inexpensive, easily accessible energy resources, higher prices will continue to slow world economies. Demographics in the developed world are slowing the global economy as millions approach their old age with little savings due to over consuming during their peak earnings years. Bernanke has already quadrupled his balance sheet with no meaningful benefit to the economy or the financial well-being of the average middle class American. Financial manipulation that creates nothing has masked the rot consuming our economic system. The game has been rigged in favor of the owners, but even a rigged game eventually comes to an end. Americans and Europeans can no longer maintain a façade of wealth by buying knickknacks from China with money they don’t have. The US and Europe are finding that their credit is no longer good in the exporting Far East countries. This is a perilous development, as the West has depended upon foreigners to accommodate its never ending expansion of credit. Without that continual expansion of debt, the Ponzi scheme comes crashing down. As China, Japan and the rest of Asia have balked at buying U.S. Treasuries with negative real yields, the only recourse for Ben has been to monetize the debt through QE and inflation. The doubling of ten year Treasury rates in a matter of three months due to just talk of possibly slowing QE should send shivers down your spine.

We are supposedly five years past the great crisis. Magazine covers proclaimed Bernanke a hero. If we are well past the crisis, why are the extreme emergency measures still in effect? If the economy is growing and jobs are being created, why do we need $85 billion of government debt to be monetized each and every month? Why are the EU, Japan, and China printing even faster than the Fed? The answer is simple. If the debt was not being monetized, it would have to be purchased out in the free market. Purchasers would require an interest rate far above the 2.9% being paid today. The debt levels in the U.S., Europe and Japan are so large that a rise in interest rates of just a few points would explode budget deficits and lead to a worldwide financial collapse. This is why Bernanke and the rest of his central banker brethren are trapped by their own ideology of bubble production. Just the slowing of debt creation will lead to collapse. Bernanke needs a Syrian crisis to postpone the taper talk. Those in control need an endless number of real or false flag crises to provide cover for their printing presses to keep rolling.

There are a couple analogies that apply to our impending doom. The country is like a 224 year old oak tree that has been slowly rotting on the inside due to the insidious diseases of hubris, apathy, selfishness, dependence, delusion, and debasement. The old oak gives an outward appearance of health and stability. Winter has arrived and gale force winds are in the forecast. One gust of wind and the mighty aged oak will topple and come crashing to earth. I think an even more fitting analogy is the sandpile with grains of sand being added day after day. Seven out of ten Americans receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. Goliath corporations and the uber-wealthy use the tax code and legislation to syphon hundreds of billions from the national treasury every year. We spend $1 trillion per year on past, current and future wars of choice. Annual interest on the debt we’ve racked up in the last few decades already approaches $400 billion per year. The entire Federal budget totaled $400 billion in 1977. The sandpile grows ever higher, while its instability expands exponentially. One seemingly innocuous grain of sand will ultimately cause the pile to collapse catastrophically. Will it be an unintended consequence of a missile launch into Syria? Will it be a spike in oil prices? Will it be the collapse of one of the EU PIIGS? Will it be an assassination of a political figure or banker? No one knows. But that innocuous grain of sand will trigger the collapse of the entire pile.

Worried people are looking for solutions. They often get angry at me because they don’t think I provide answers to the issues I raise about our corrupt failing system. They want easy answers to intractable problems. Sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that our system and majority of citizens are too corrupted to change our course through the ballot box or instituting policies along the lines of those proposed by Ron Paul and many other thoughtful liberty minded people. We are experiencing the downside of a representative democracy.  Once a person is democratically elected a gulf is created between the electors and the person they elected, as the representative becomes corrupted and bought by moneyed interests. Elected officials become a class unto themselves. The political class grows to be puppets that resemble human beings but are nothing but cogs in a vast corporate run machine, pawns in an enormous game of chess played by powerful vindictive immoral men.

There are no cures for our disease. It’s terminal. Anyone telling you they have the answers is either lying or trying to sell you something. More people and organizations are on the take than are playing by the rules. The producers are being overrun by the parasites. The barbarians are at the gate. An implosion of societal trust is underway. The next stage of this crisis, which I believe will materialize within the next twelve months will try the souls of the weary.

“As the Crisis catalyzes, these fears will rush to the surface, jagged and exposed. Distrustful of some things, individuals will feel that their survival requires them to distrust more things. This behavior could cascade into a sudden downward spiral, an implosion of societal trust. This might result in a Great Devaluation, a severe drop in the market price of most financial and real assets. This devaluation could be a short but horrific panic, a free-falling price in a market with no buyers. Or it could be a series of downward ratchets linked to political events that sequentially knock the supports out from under the residual popular trust in the system. As assets devalue, trust will further disintegrate, which will cause assets to devalue further, and so on.”The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

As a nation we have squandered our inheritance, born of the blood of patriots. A freedom loving, liberty minded, self-responsible, courageous people have allowed ourselves to fall prey to selfishness, apathy, complacency and dependency. Once we allowed our human appetites of greed, power seeking, and control to override the moral responsibility for our own lives and the lives of future unborn generations, collapse was inevitable. The danger now is what happens after the unavoidable collapse. Will the millions of dependency zombies beg for a strong dictator to protect them, provide for them and lead them into further bondage? Or will the spark of liberty and freedom reignite, allowing citizens to throw off the shackles of banker and corporate control? I believe most of the people in this country are good hearted. We are merely pawns in this game of Risk being played by those seeking power, wealth and world domination. We are all trapped in our own forms of normalcy bias. Have I cashed out my retirement funds, sold my suburban house and built a doomstead in the mountains? No I haven’t. Do I second guess myself sometimes? Yes I do. But even the aware have families to support, jobs to go to, bills to pay, laundry to do, lawns to mow, and lives to live. I can’t live in constant fear of what might happen. We only get 80 or so years on this earth, if we’re lucky. The best we can do is leave a positive legacy for our children and their children. A drastic change to our way of life is coming, but most of us are trapped in a cage of our own making.

Each living generation will need to do their part during this Crisis if we are to survive the coming storm. Since no one knows the nature of how the next fifteen years will unfold, it would be wise to at least make basic preparations for food, water, heat and protection. This is easier for some than others, but you don’t have to star on Doomsday Preppers in order to stock up on items that can be purchased at Wal-Mart today, but won’t be available when the global supply chain breaks down. Make sure you have neighbors and family you can rely upon. A small community of like-minded people with varied skills is more likely to succeed in our brave old world than rugged individualists. With no financial means to maintain our globalized world, living locally will take on a new meaning. After much turmoil, chaos, violence, and likely mass casualties the best outcome would be for the Great American Empire to break into regional republics, incapable of waging global war, led by law abiding moral liberty minded individuals, and willing to trade freely and honestly with their fellow republics. Daily life would revert back to a simpler Amish like time. Would that be so bad?

This Fourth Turning could end with a whimper or a bang. There are enough nuclear arms to obliterate the world ten times over. There are enough hubristic egomaniacal psychopathic men in power, that the use of those weapons has a high likelihood of happening. It will be up to the people to not allow this horrific result. I love my country and despise my government. The Declaration of Independence clearly states that when a long train of abuses and usurpations lead toward despotism, it is our right and duty to throw off that government and provide new guards of liberty. My family comes first with my country a close second. I will fight with whatever means necessary to protect my family and do what I can to influence the future course of our country. Time is running out. Will we have the courage, fortitude and wisdom to make the right decisions over the next fifteen years? Will we choose glory or destruction? The fate of our nation hangs in the balance. Are you prepared? Are you ready to fight for your family and your rights?

The Fourth Turning could spare modernity but mark the end of our nation. It could close the book on the political constitution, popular culture, and moral standing that the word America has come to signify. The nation has endured for three saecula; Rome lasted twelve, the Soviet Union only one. Fourth Turnings are critical thresholds for national survival. Each of the last three American Crises produced moments of extreme danger: In the Revolution, the very birth of the republic hung by a thread in more than one battle. In the Civil War, the union barely survived a four-year slaughter that in its own time was regarded as the most lethal war in history. In World War II, the nation destroyed an enemy of democracy that for a time was winning; had the enemy won, America might have itself been destroyed. In all likelihood, the next Crisis will present the nation with a threat and a consequence on a similar scale.The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

 

 IT’S OUR CHOICE.

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Bondi is still a plastic beach full of plastic people and tourists. Fires not near the coast. Most are out in the Western suburbs where the non-beautiful people live...Sydney is covered in smoke due to the lay of the land. Its a big basin surrounded b...

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