These are economic weapons of mass destruction. One explodes, and they are daisy chained together and all will go off. The resulting explosion will make the Great Depression look like child's play. Rather, think "21st Century Dark Ages."
Our financial, economic, and political system is headed (I believe irrevocably, but there may be time to change....) for a firestorm that will make our heads turn around. "Retirement" will be replaced by "survival" as the goal of the vast majority.
I stole this list from Paul Farrell, economics commentator for Marketwatch.com and ex-banker with Morgan Stanley (where he worked for 30 years). He was also president of Financial News Network, so he knows a little about what he is talking about. You can find these items catalogued here.
The thing Farrell does not mention compounds the problem logarithmically. Never before in human history have so many people been concentrated in CITIES. The horrific thing about that is that cities produce nothing in terms of basic survival needs. They are huge sucking leeches of resources, whether it be water, energy, clothing, articles of daily living and of course, FOOD.
My father used to tell me stories of growing up as a child in the Great Depression. They talked about being poor (his father died when he was 6 months old). They lived on a small rural plot of land you could not realistically call a "farm," , but they had food. It may have been mostly cornbread and beans, but they ate, because they produced it themselves. Never before in human history have so many people been vulnerable to a catastrophic collapse of the "grid." We have whole populations who are simply helpless if the infrastructure crumbles.
Read on for the list of possible "triggers" for a cultural/economic/financial maelstrom, and you might understand why I have been stockpiling gold, guns, ammo, articles for daily living, and now, food.
Maybe I am nuts. Farrell doesn't think so.
1. Federal Budget Deficit Bomb. The Bush/Cheney wars pushed America deep into a debt hole. Federal debt limit was just raised almost 100% with Obama's 2010 budget, to $14.3 trillion vs. $7.8 trillion in 2005. The Congressional Budget Office predicts future deficits around 4% through 2020. Get it? America's debt at 84% of GDP will soon pass that toxic 90% trigger point.
2. U.S. Foreign Trade Bomb. Monthly deficits actually dropped from $50 billion per month to roughly $35 billion. But the total continues climbing as $400 billion is added each year. Foreigners now own $2.5 trillion of America, with China holding over $1.3 trillion in Treasury debt.
3. Weakening U.S. Dollar as Foreign Reserve Currency Bomb. Fear China and other currencies will replace dollar as main foreign reserves. The dollar's fallen: The main index measuring dollar strength has gone from 120 at the Clinton-to-Bush handoff to below 80 today.
4. Cheap Money Bomb: Credit Ratings Down, Rates Up. Economists at S&P, Fitch and Moody's were totally co-conspirators of Fat Cat Bankers, misleading investors before meltdown: Soon, debt up, ratings down, interest rates soar.
5. Global Real Estate Bomb. Dubai Tower, new "world's tallest building" is empty. BusinessWeek warns that China's housing collapse could be worse than America's. Plus the U.S. commercial real estate bubble is now $1.7 trillion, a "ticking time bomb" bloating 25% of bank balance sheets.
6. Peak Oil and the Population Bomb. China and India each need 500 new cities. The United Nations estimates world population exploding 50% from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050: Three billion more humans demanding more automobiles, exhausting more resources to feed their version of the gas-guzzling "America Dream."
7. Social Security Bomb. We have no choice; eventually we must either cut benefits or raise taxes. Politicians hate both, so they'll do nothing. Delays worsen solutions. Without action, by 2035 Social Security and Medicare benefits will eat up the entire federal budget other than defense.
8. Medicare: A Nuclear Bomb. Going broke faster than Social Security. Prescription drug benefit added an unfunded $8.1 trillion. In 5 years estimates rose from about $35 trillion to over $60 trillion now.
9. Health-care Insurance Bomb. Burden increasingly shifted to employees. Costs rising faster than inflation. Recent Obamacare plan would have cost $90 billion annually, paid to Big Pharma and insurers.
10. State and Local Government Budget Bombs. Deficits of $110 billion in 2010, $178 billion in 2011on top of more that $450 billion in underfunded state and municipal employee pension funds.
11. Underfunded Corporate Pensions Bomb. From $60 billion surplus in 2007 to $409 billion deficit in 2009. And a whopping 92% of the pension plans of companies are now underfunded. Defaults are guaranteed by taxpayers.
12. Consumer Debt Bomb. Americans are still living beyond their means. Even with a downturn, consumer debt rose from about $2.3 to $2.5 trillion. Fat Cat Bankers love it -- yes love making matters worse by gouging cardholders and mortgagees, blocking help in foreclosures and bankruptcies.
13. Personal Savings Bomb. Before the 2008 meltdown savings rate dropped from about 10% in the early 1980s to below zero. Now it's increasing, slowing retail recovery. Today, government's the big "unsaver."
14. War and Military Defense Deficits. Costs of Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- $200+ billion annually, $3 trillion minimum, with massive long-term costs for veteran medical care, equipment renewal, recruitment.
15. Homeland Insecurity Bomb. Security at airports, seaports, borders, vulnerable chemical plants all increase budgets.
16. Fed/Treasury Bailout Bombs. Tax credits, loans, cash and purchase of toxic assets from Wall Street banks estimated at $23.7 trillion as new debt was shifted from too-big-to-fail Fat-Cat banks to taxpayers.
17. Insatiable Washington Lobbyists Bombs. Paulson, Goldman, Geithner, Morgan and Wall Street banks, through their lobbyists and former employees working inside now have absolute power over government spending. Democracy and voters are now irrelevant in America's new corporate-socialism.
18. Shadow Banking: The Derivatives Bomb. Wall Street wants no regulation of this $670 trillion, high-risk, out-of-control casino that's highly leveraged versus the $50 trillion total GDP of all nations. We forget that derivatives almost destroyed global economies in 2008-09, finally will by 2012.
19. Dysfunctional Two-Party Political Bomb. Polarized partisanship increasing: Every day both parties show zero interest in cooperating for the public good. Instead they fight viciously, resisting everything and anything proposed by opponents. Only goal: Score political points, make the other side look bad.
20. The Coming Populous Rebellion Bombs. Nobody trusts anyone in authority. For good reason. So immediate gratification, short-term betting and a lack of long-term perspective wins for individual investors, consumers and taxpayers as well as Washington, Wall Street and Corporate America CEOs. Today: "Doing what's right for the common good and country" is just empty political rhetoric.