Sunday, May 10, 2015

How Much Do We Like To Exceptionally Screw Ourselves?   (Baltimore Riots Planned)   Stalled "Recovering" Economy  (The Incredible John Kiriakou)

Not news.

But important to say again and again:

Eric Holder Exits Without Bringing Libor or Foreign Exchange Charges Against Citigroup or JPMorgan

How much do we like to exceptionally screw ourselves?

Quite a lot.

And it never seems to get old. (Watch Glenn Greenwald's speech on our lost civil liberties on Link TV, Richard D. Wolff on Link TV on the current economics decisions that are diminishing our quality of life, and "Chris Hedges:  Days of Revolt" on Link TV on Monday, May 11, 2015, at 6:00 AM.)

And you thought Paul Volker had no connections to graft? (If you have personal indebtedness brought on by WorldCom's fraudulent machinations, you will be interested in these Volcker Rule "details" too.)

Paul Volcker Invests in Foreign Banks as He Lectures on U.S. Bank Reform

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens
April 27, 2015

Paul Volcker (right) Hobnobbing at a Group of 30 Event

Paul Volcker (right) Hobnobbing at a Group of 30 Event

Last Monday, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker held a press conference at the National Press Club to release his nonprofit’s plan for reforming U.S. bank regulation. Volcker’s plan includes elevating the Federal Reserve to even greater heights as a super regulator of a consolidated system. That’s exactly the opposite of what Congress has in mind as it holds hearings on fatal conflicts of interests between the Fed and Wall Street.

At the press conference, Volcker delivered a thoroughly discredited statement suggesting some deep-pocketed backers are putting words in his mouth. Volcker said: “The Federal Reserve is the best-equipped, the most independent and most respected financial agency of the United States government.”
Volcker’s views on financial reform must be seen against the backdrop of Volcker’s myriad conflicts and ties with the global ruling elite. His non-profit organization, The Volcker Alliance, has multiplied its income by a factor of 30 in one year.

From 2012 to 2013, The Volcker Alliance went from $500,000 in contributions to over $15 million. It fails to list its donors on its public IRS 990 tax form. And then there is the matter of Volcker’s personal investments in unseemly foreign bank deals alongside global banks that are serially charged with breaking the law.
In December of last year, Simon Clark of the "Wall Street Journal" reported that Volcker had just completed his third investment stake in a foreign bank. Clark wrote that Volcker is well known for taming inflation in the 1980s (as Fed Chairman) but “Less well known is the 87-year-old former Fed chairman’s penchant for investing in banks around the world.”
According to Clark, since 1999, Volcker has invested in three separate foreign bank deals put together by private equity firm, Ripplewood. The most recent deal is for a stake in Latvia’s Citadele Bank. Earlier deals include the 1999 takeover of the Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan (now known as Shinsei Bank) and the 2006 investment in Egypt’s Commercial International Bank.
The Latvia deal looks like an attempt by Ripplewood to replay the maneuver it perfected in the Shinsei Bank deal. Both Citadele Bank and Shinsei Bank were bailed out by taxpayers before Ripplewood came up with its offers.
The Shinsei Bank deal has failed to pass the smell test among the myriad book authors and business journalists that have written about how the deal was conducted.
In The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy Of American Empire, Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch describe the lead up to the purchase of Shinsei Bank, at the time known as LTCB for Long-Term Credit Bank. The authors write:
“…Paul Volcker was recruited as an advisor to Ripplewood, the obscure American firm that was interested in buying the LTCB. He flew over to meet with Kichi Miyazawa, Japan’s Finance Minister, whom he had first come to know in the ‘intimate settings’ of the old G10 meetings, where they had built up a reserve of mutual trust.”
Goldman Sachs was selected by the government of Japan to represent its side since it had nationalized the bank when it failed in October of 1998. Interestingly, pairing up with Ripplewood was Chris Flowers who had only recently left Goldman Sachs as a partner heavily engaged in mergers and acquisitions among financial institutions.
Reports from the myriad books and reports in the "Wall Street Journal," "Los Angeles Times" and "New York Times," each divulging a few more names of those entities that invested alongside Paul Volcker in the Shinsei deal, suggests a coziness not heretofore understood between Volcker and the Wall Street elite. Investors included David Rockefeller, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Grupo Santander, GE Capital, Mellon Bank, ABNAmro, Gap’s controlling Fisher family, and AIG.
The investors made billions of dollars in profits when the bank went public in 2004 and a secondary offering in 2005. Japanese taxpayers, meanwhile, were forced under the deal to take back loans that turned sour over the next three years on top of the tens of billions of dollars they had already poured into the bank in the nationalization.
Some of those investors have a sordid record here in the U.S. Citigroup and AIG became insolvent during the 2008 financial crisis and were bailed out with massive infusions from taxpayers. Both Citigroup and Deutsche Bank have been charged by various regulators with serial violations of banking and/or securities laws. Both Citigroup and Deutsche Bank would like nothing better than to thwart any serious financial reform. Indeed, Citigroup effectively legislated its own repeal of a core part of the Dodd-Frank overhaul legislation late last year.
On January 3, 2010, the "The Scotsman" newspaper published a revealing look at the Shinsei deal and Volcker’s involvement. At that time, Volcker was ensconced as Obama’s Wall Street reform guru, serving as the Chairman of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board from 2009 to 2011. The Scotsman found these troubling conflicts:
“After months of fighting talk, US President Barack Obama unveiled his plan to tame America’s banks by telling them they should no longer own, invest in or sponsor hedge or private-equity funds, nor trade on their own account.
Towering behind him was its author, Paul Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve … It is difficult, however, to reconcile his avowed wariness of private equity and proprietary trading with his nine years as senior adviser to Japan’s Shinsei Bank, from 2000-09…
This private equity stake in Shinsei has aroused widespread suspicions of a conflict of interest. Billionaire Christopher Flowers, a former Goldman Sachs partner before starting his own firm, sits on Shinsei’s board, and has admitted the bank and his fund have been involved together in many deals. One such deal was the purchase of 24.9 per cent of German property lender Hypo Real Estate in June 2008 … Hypo was later nationalised by the German government
“In Japan, controversy has dogged Shinsei ever since Flowers and other investors bought the failed Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan (LTCB) from the government
“Flowers and his partners then reaped billions of dollars in profits by selling shares in the bank when Shinsei finally went public. ‘This may be the most profitable private-equity deal of all time,’ David Rubinstein, co-founder of the Carlyle private equity group was quoted as saying in 2004 after Shinsei’s initial public offering.
“But the deal left the Japanese public furious. According to Kenichi Ohmae, a former chairman of McKinsey in Tokyo, taxpayers were ‘taken to the cleaners’…”
The article notes further that shortly after the Shinsei Bank was taken over by the U.S. investors, it invested about $3.7 billion in corporate bonds, including those of WorldCom. Four years later, the value of the corporate bond portfolio had shrunk to $900 million.

This was the very kind of high risk proprietary trading the Volcker Rule was meant to guard against. Volcker sat as a Senior Adviser to the Shinsei Bank as this and other high risk gambles occurred.
Volcker is also affiliated with organizations perceived by the public to represent the interests of the global elite. Volcker serves on the Executive Committee of the Trilateral Commission, founded by David Rockefeller. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Group of 30, a body of international bankers and central bankers. Volcker also serves as a Global Counselor at the Conference Board, a group representing 1200 businesses around the globe, among numerous other affiliations.

Letter to Loretto

Torture whistleblower John Kiriakou bids farewell to incarceration and moves on with his life.

By John Kiriakou, May 5, 2015.

(Photo: / Flickr)

John Kiriakou is a former CIA officer. Back in 2007, he became the first U.S. government official to confirm — and condemn — the practice of torture by CIA interrogators.

After a drawn-out legal battle, federal authorities convicted Kiriakou of leaking classified information and handed down a prison sentence. He remains the only U.S. official to serve time following the revelation of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” practices.

In February, after serving two years in a federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, Kiriakou was permitted to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest at his home in Northern Virginia. Under the terms of his release from prison, he was required to check in daily at a local halfway house in Washington, DC until May 1 of this year. He’s now on federal probation.

Kiriakou documented his experiences in prison in a series of hand-written “Letters from Loretto” published at "FireDogLake." In this, his final entry in the series, he recounts the depredations of house arrest and announces his associate fellowship at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Starting now, he’ll write regularly for Foreign Policy In Focus and OtherWords, two IPS-based media outlets.

Hello from Arlington, Virginia! I thought I’d write a letter to Loretto to tell you about my experience since going home.

I completed my house arrest on May 1 and began three years of probation, or what Ronald Reagan called “supervised release.” (Technically, there is no such thing as “probation” anymore, although the person to whom I report is called a “United States Probation Officer.”)

I left Loretto on February 3 of this year. My last hour there was a little stressful — not because I was anxious to get out (although I was), but because of one final attempt by a trollish prison employee to set me up just as I was leaving.

She taunted me and threatened to put me in solitary because I asked to go to the release office at a time other than a formal “move.” And when I just repeated, “I’m not going to let you set me up. I’m going home and you can’t stop me,” she blew me a cynical kiss. (This secretary, the sister and daughter of corrections officers, has a reputation for sending prisoners to solitary for “leering” at her.)

I was met in the parking lot by my wife Heather, my three youngest children, and my friend Joe, who took the day off to drive me to the halfway house where I was supposed to check in before being sent home. We stopped at the nearest McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin. (I know, I know. But it just goes to show you how sickening the food is in prison when you can’t get to a McDonald’s fast enough upon release.)

Making our way down from Pennsylvania, I got to the halfway house with only 45 minutes to spare after crawling through heavy Washington traffic.

The place is called Hope Village. Many residents refer to it as “Hopeless Village,” And I’ve even heard people call it “Abandon All Hope Village.” Located in a former housing project and tucked deep within Washington’s low-income Anacostia neighborhood, it’s nowhere near a Metro station. Transportation by bus is inconvenient, to say the least.

I’d done a little research on Hope Village before my arrival.The "Washington Post"
found the facility’s “job training services lacking and access to mental health services anemic.” There is no money for “residents” to use public transportation to job interviews, and cell phones and Internet access are forbidden.

In addition, according to "Prison Legal News," a 2013 report by the District of Columbia’s Corrections Information Council found that Hope Village “lacked the ability to help residents find housing and employment, and hindered them from accessing mental health services.

Residents said they felt unsafe and the halfway house did not have an effective system to handle grievances.” The report continued, “The CIC heard on multiple occasions that incarcerated DC residents would prefer to stay at secure [prison] facilities than to reenter DC through Hope Village.”

In a bit of an understatement, the chairman added, “I would say that there are some things that are obviously dysfunctional.”

So I was prepared for the worst.

The Nine-Hour Check-In

I arrived at Hope Village at around 11:45 a.m. and went to the office to check in. I was told that I had to speak to several different people before being sent home, so I settled into apartment 301 and waited until somebody came to get me. I told Heather and Joe to go home.

Several things came immediately to my attention. First, everybody was friendly. And I mean everybody. The staff greeted me with, “Hello, Mr. Kiriakou. Welcome to Hope Village.” The apartment was sparsely furnished, but had everything important: two bunk beds, a couch, two chairs, and a color TV with broadcast channels.

There was a schedule waiting for me. I was to see a case manager, an employment counselor, a drug counselor, and a social worker. That also meant that I couldn’t just check in, check out, and go home.

Instead, check-in took nine hours. (That said, the food in the cafeteria, which everybody complained about, was absolutely delicious to me: white bread with a slice of turkey and a slice of cheese. I never tasted anything so wonderful. And I guess that says a lot about the fare federal prisons serve.)

The case manager finally gave me a list of 14 mandatory classes that I had to complete in the coming weeks, and then sent me home. I was told that I had to go to the halfway house every day to check in, go to class, and get drug tested.

That sounded fine, but became a colossal pain in the ass.

Life Skills

First, I wasn’t allowed to drive, so I had to take public transportation.

I had to leave my house in Arlington, walk to the nearest Metro station, take the train to Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, catch a bus for Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood, get off on Alabama Avenue, then walk the rest of the way to Hope Village. This takes at least two hours each way. I’d spend an hour or two at Hope Village, and then make the two-hour trip home.

This was killing six hours every day in the middle of the workday. The problem here is that I was supposed to be finding a job and working every day. Remaining unemployed at a certain point would make me “violated.” Having broken the rules of my probation, I’d be heading back to Loretto and spending more time in prison. I saw these daily visits to the halfway house as an utter waste of time.

Perhaps out of laziness or maybe as a form of rebellion, I didn’t sign up for any of the classes the first two weeks of my house arrest. These classes included Life Skills, Kicking Your Drug Addiction, Suicide Prevention, Prison Rape Prevention, How to Write a Resume, and others.

By way of background, I have a bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern studies and a master’s degree in legislative affairs, both from George Washington University. I spent 15 years at the CIA, four years as the deputy director of competitive intelligence in a “Big Four” accounting firm, and more than two years as the senior investigator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I have five children, the eldest of whom is graduating from Ohio State University with a degree in economics.

So frankly, I didn’t need any of those classes. I’ve never done a drug in my life, and my life skills are just fine. And really, I told the case manager, prison rape prevention class should be given before the person goes to prison, not after release.

At the end of the second week, I got a call from my case manager. “Come to Hope Village right away. We need to do a team meeting.” I had no idea what this meant, but I embarked on another long trek to Anacostia. When I got there, I was ushered into a dilapidated conference room. Sitting around the table were the director and deputy director of Hope Village, the case manager, the employment counselor, the social worker, and a representative of the Bureau of Prisons. The case manager angrily said, “You haven’t signed up for a single class since you got out. Unless you want to be violated you better start taking the life skills classes!”

I paused for a moment, looked at her, and said, “Have you ever seen the episode of "The Simpsons" where Homer has to take a life skills class? He walks into the classroom and the instructor is saying ‘put a garbage can lid on the garbage can, people. I can’t stress that enough.’ Is that what you’re going to teach me in your life skills class? To put a garbage can lid on the garbage can?” There was silence for a moment, then the director asked me to step outside for a moment.

I stood in the hall for about half an hour, and then I was called back in to the conference room. “OK,” the director said. “We’re waiving all the classes. You don’t have to take any of them.” I thanked him, and continued: “There’s another thing. I want permission to drive. I kill four hours in travel time, plus however much time I spend being here every time I come up. I can drive here from my house in 15 minutes. I can use the rest of that time to work. And isn’t that what I’m supposed to be doing?” There was another period of silence. Then the director said, “OK. You can drive. Give the employment counselor a copy of your license, insurance, and title. I’ll approve it.”

I later made one more minor complaint to my case manager. I told her that our meetings, which by then had tapered to three times a week yet were still scheduled in the middle of the day, interfered with my ability to work. She moved them to Tuesday and Thursday nights at 7:00 p.m.
To their credit, Hope Village’s employees showed flexibility, pragmatism, and respect. I wish I could say the same for my experience with the Bureau of Prisons.


(Photo: Stephen-D.-Melkisethian / Flickr)

The Daily Gauntlet

So for 87 days, from my release from Loretto on February 3 until the end of my house arrest on May 1, this was the deal: I couldn’t leave my house except to go to Hope Village, seek or do work, or visit the doctor. What I couldn’t do was go to PTA meetings, my children’s school events, their sporting events, or enter a private home.

The halfway house’s “officer in charge of quarters” called me every morning between 7:10 and 8:00 a.m. to make sure I was home. There was a second call every night between 9:15 and 10:15 p.m. Sometimes they even called after 11:00 at night.

The “employment counselor” stopped by the house randomly, usually on a Tuesday or Wednesday, to make sure I was home. If I left the house for any reason whatsoever, I had to call Hope Village and say, “John Kiriakou leaving the house,” even if it was to go to Hope Village. I also had to call when I got home to say, “John Kiriakou. I arrived home.”

On Saturdays and Sundays, at least, I was allowed to leave the house for five hours. Then, if I returned home for an hour, I could go back out for up to four more hours, for the purpose of “family reintegration.” I could go to a movie, a restaurant, the park, or do whatever I needed to with my wife and kids.

Every Tuesday, I had to meet with my case manager and give her a copy of my proposed movement for the week — a list of doctor’s appointments, visits to Hope Village, meetings with my attorneys and prospective employers, and plans for the weekend. I also had to give her receipts from the weekend to prove that I did what I said I would do, and a copy of my monthly phone bill.

I also had to pay “rent” to Hope Village for the bed I didn’t use. That rent is 25 percent of my gross pay. You see, like all halfway houses, Hope Village is a for-profit enterprise. Lip service to job training, mental health, and reintegration are fine, but the truth is that the goal of Hope Village and every other halfway house is to get released prisoners in and out as quickly as possible.

Every resident has to pay rent, and the only way the halfway house can make any money is to rent out the bed to three, four, or more people at the same time. The goal, then, is to get people into home confinement like mine quickly. That way, they don’t cost the halfway house anything in the way of food or other resources, but they still pay rent.

You would think that would be an incentive for Hope Village to help people find a job, but it’s not. Aside from a bulletin board in the office listing job openings at fast food restaurants, car washes, and motels, there’s no program to get anybody a job. Just get a job — any job — on your own, and go home and pay your rent.

Ideas into Action

Fortunately, I had a temporary job lined up before I even left prison. I set out immediately to find something permanent.

I was finally offered a position as an associate fellow with Washington’s preeminent progressive think tank, the Institute for Policy Studies.

Founded in 1963, IPS is one of the most highly respected independent policy institutions in the city. Its experts appear on network news programs all the time, they publish countless books, magazine articles, and syndicated columns, and they speak around the world on issues as varied as the Middle East peace process, climate change, gender equality, human rights, civil rights, and the environment. My job would be to write articles, papers, and op-eds on prison reform, intelligence reform, torture, terrorism, and the Middle East.

I’ve always admired IPS and the work it does, and I was excited at the prospect of working there. But more bureaucracy lay ahead.

I filled out the relevant paperwork for the halfway house. The employment counselor visited the IPS office to make sure there was such a place and that they knew I was a felon. No problems there.

But two weeks later, my case manager showed me a note from the Bureau of Prisons regional office in Baltimore. It said, “We feel it is inappropriate for Inmate Kiriakou to work in a job that would allow him to comment on foreign affairs and prison reform, given the nature of his crime.”

That, of course, is nonsensical.

First, there’s that pesky issue of “freedom of speech.” Second, it’s not up to the Bureau of Prisons to decide where I can and can’t work. I could have gone to court to file a motion overturning the BOP’s decision. But that would have taken months, so I decided to wait them out.

With my house arrest over, the BOP no longer controls me. So on May 4 I started my job with IPS.

Making Contact

Of course, I’ve had other problems with the BOP along the way.

When I got home on February 3, I tweeted a photo of myself sitting on the couch with my three youngest kids and the caption, “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last. MLK, Jr. (And John Kiriakou.)” That tweet was picked up by major alternative news websites, as well as television networks like Russia Today and Al Jazeera. Consequently, I received dozens of interview requests over the next couple of weeks.

Before I accepted any of them, I looked at the BOP’s regulations related to press interviews at The regulations were clear: I needed to get BOP approval for interviews while incarcerated. I then checked the halfway house’s website. It said that residents of Hope Village had to get the director’s permission before speaking to the press. I was neither incarcerated nor a resident of the halfway house.

So I accepted a number of interview requests, including with Democracy Now, RT, and several print outlets. Within days, I received a call from a BOP official in Baltimore. He said that he was “very concerned” that I’d had unauthorized contact with the press. I told him that, on the contrary, I had read the regulations and didn’t need BOP approval. Furthermore, I had read the Hope Village regulations, and I didn’t need their authorization either.

The BOP guy nonetheless insisted that if I continued to grant interviews without his approval, he’d violate me and send me back to prison. Again, a motion before the court would’ve taken months to get a hearing. And I likely would’ve had to argue it from prison.

I know when to make a strategic retreat, so I made one.

Instead of continuing to freely speak with the media, I decided to bury him in paper. I sent him as many as a dozen forms per week. I put him in touch with every blogger, podcaster, reporter, and photojournalist I came into contact with. There were reporters from most major American news outlets and a dozen foreign countries. There were radio hosts from the far left, the far right, and everything in between. I even did an entire one-hour radio program on how folk singer Pete Seeger influenced the course of my life.

This turned out to be too much for the BOP guy. He just ignored many requests when he was too busy. I resubmitted them. And when he told one freelance reporter that he couldn’t speak to me because he wasn’t a “real” journalist, I countered that I shouldn’t need to ask permission to speak with him. After all, it would be a conversation between two private citizens. The BOP guy backed down.

Again, if I needed to, I could just outwait him. He only controlled me until May 1.

The Future

So now I’m home and, generally, free.

The future looks promising. I intend to make a living writing, speaking, and teaching. I will write op-eds for the Institute’s "OtherWords" editorial service and its "Foreign Policy In Focus" website. I’ll speak at colleges, universities, non-profits, and to other groups, and I’ll teach a course I’ve developed on ethics in intelligence operations.

Additionally, after what I’ve been through, my voice will be heard on prison reform — no matter how much of a pest I have to make of myself.

Our country’s prison system is broken. It’s racist. And it needs to be torn down and rebuilt. Overcrowding is unconstitutional and out of control. Sentences are draconian, especially for people of color. And the poor quality of medical care is criminal. The Bureau of Prisons’ neglect of sick prisoners is tantamount to abuse and, in some cases, manslaughter. I hope to help put an end to that.

In the meantime, I want to say thanks again to the more than 700 people who wrote to me in prison. Thank you for remembering me. Thank you for your support. Please also remember those still inside.

Please stay in touch by signing up for my occasional newsletter at

Best regards,


John Kiriakou is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. He’s a former CIA officer who blew the whistle on the agency’s use of torture. This piece was jointly published by Foreign Policy In Focus and OtherWords.

Still don't have any questions about the Baltimore "riots?"

The police riots, that is.


Or do you?

. . . how in the world can the “unemployment rate” be sitting at “5.5 percent” when everyone is unemployed in 20 percent of all families in the United States?

This is a "recovering" economy?

16 Signs That The Economy Has Stalled Out And The Next Economic Downturn Is Here

By Michael Snyder, on April 29th, 2015 

Get Prepared Now

If U.S. economic growth falls any lower, we are officially going to be in recession territory.  On Wednesday, we learned that U.S. GDP grew at a 0.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter of 2015. That was much lower than all of the “experts” were projecting. And of course there are all sorts of questions whether the GDP numbers the government feeds us are legitimate anyway.

According to John Williams of, if honest numbers were used they would show that U.S. GDP growth has been continuously negative since 2005.  But even if we consider the number that the government has given us to be the “real” number, it still shows that the U.S. economy has stalled out.

It is almost as if we have hit a “turning point,” and there are many out there (including myself) that believe that the next major economic downturn is dead ahead. As you will see in this article, a whole bunch of things are happening right now that we would expect to see if a recession was beginning.  The following are 16 signs that the economy has stalled out and the next economic downturn is here…

#1 We just learned that U.S. GDP grew at an anemic 0.2 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2015…

The gross domestic product grew between January and March at an annualized rate of 0.2 percent, the U.S. Commerce Department said, adding to the picture of an economy braking sharply after accelerating for much of last year. The pace fell well shy of the 1 percent mark anticipated by analysts and marked the weakest quarter in a year.
#2 If you strip a very unusual inventory buildup out of the GDP number, U.S. GDP would have actually fallen at a -2.5 percent annual rate during the first quarter…

The only good news: the massive inventory build, the largest since 2010, boosted GDP by nearly 3.0%. Without this epic stockpiling of non-farm inventory which will have to be liquidated at some point (and at a very low price) Q1 GDP would have been -2.5%.
#3 Our trade deficit with the rest of the planet is absolutely killing our economic growth.  According to the Reality Chek Blog, U.S. economic growth would have been a total of 8 percent higher since the end of the last recession if we actually had balanced trade with other nations…

As of the new first quarter figures, the worsening of the trade deficit has reduced the cumulative real growth of the U.S. economy by 7.99 percent since the current recovery began in the second quarter of 2009.
#4 According to numbers that were just released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in one out of every five American families nobody has a job.  So how in the world can the “unemployment rate” be sitting at “5.5 percent” when everyone is unemployed in 20 percent of all families in the United States?  It doesn’t make any sense.

#5 The rate of homeownership in the United States has just hit a brand new 25 year low.  How can anyone claim that the middle class is “healthy” when the percentage of Americans that own a home is the lowest that it has been in more than two decades?

#6 Back in 2013, 31 percent of all Americans said that they did not anticipate buying a home “for the foreseeable future”.  Just two years later, that number has risen to 41 percent.

#7 The student loan bubble is clearly bursting.  According to Bloomberg, only 37 percent of all student loan borrowers are actually up to date on their payments and reducing their balances…

With borrowers increasingly struggling to repay their student loans, Moody’s Investors Service is warning it may take investors longer than promised to get their money back. The credit grader said this month it may lower rankings on $3 billion of top-rated debt as investors face the threat of slowing principal payments or even receiving no interest.

The concern underscores the fallout from a record $1.2 trillion in U.S. student loans that’s spreading to everything from the housing market and consumer spending to taxpayers. As a sluggish economic recovery forces borrowers to miss payments or tap relief programs, only 37 percent are current and reducing their balances, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York presentation this month.
#8 Procter & Gamble has announced that it will be cutting up to 6,000 more jobs from their payroll.  Why would they be doing this if the economy is “getting better”?

#9 McDonald’s plans to permanently shut down 700 “poorly performing” restaurants over the course of 2015.  Why would they be doing this if the economy is “getting better”?

#10 It is being projected that half of all fracking companies in the United States will be either “dead or sold” by the end of 2015.

#11 Retail sales in the U.S. have not dropped this rapidly since the last recession.

#12 Wholesale sales in the U.S. have not dropped this rapidly since the last recession.

#13 Factory orders in the U.S. have not dropped this rapidly since the last recession.

#14 Credit requests are being declined at a rate that we haven’t seen since the last recession.

#15 U.S. export growth has gone negative for the first time since the last recession.

#16 As the U.S. economy begins to head into another downturn, most Americans are completely unprepared for it.  In fact, one recent survey discovered that 62 percent of all Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck.

Don’t let this next recession take you by surprise.

Back in 2008 and 2009, millions of Americans suddenly lost their jobs or businesses because of the sharp economic downturn.  Because most of them were living paycheck to paycheck, all of a sudden a whole lot of Americans could not make their mortgage payments and foreclosures surged to unprecedented heights.  Millions of families that thought they were operating on a solid foundation saw their middle class lifestyles evaporate in just a matter of a few months.

That is why it is so vital to prepare yourself financially, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually for the great storm that is coming ahead of time.  Over the past couple of years, I have been working on a new book entitled “Get Prepared Now” which talks about how to make these preparations.  On Wednesday, it was finally released to the public.  I hope that you will check it out.

The past few years have been a period of relative stability for the U.S. economy.  A lot of people have been lulled into a false sense of security during that time.  These people have become convinced that our problems have been fixed.  But they haven’t been fixed at all.  In fact, our problems are far, far worse than they were just prior to the last financial crisis.

When the next great financial crisis strikes, we are going to see a spike in the suicide rate just like we did during the last one.  Millions will be blindsided by what is coming and will give in to depression and despair.  But that doesn’t have to happen to you.  It is empowering to know what is coming and to understand why it is coming.  It is empowering to get prepared in advance for turbulent times.  It is empowering to have a plan for the years ahead.

Even though I write about all of the horrible things that are coming to this country every day, I live my life with no fear, and that is what I want for all of you as well.

Do you want to know who will be giving in to fear and panic when things start to go really crazy?

It will be the people that had no idea what was coming and made no preparations whatsoever.

Yes, the times ahead are going to be extremely challenging, but they can also be the best times of your life.

It is all going to come down to how you respond to a world that is going completely insane.

The choice is up to you.

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