How Does The Crisis Affect Me?

The crisis has affected each of us. We examine examples of how the financial crisis, and the associated economic, social and political instability may affect your life and wealth in ways you never considered

Feds made $100B in improper payments

From Stephen Ohlemacher of the Associated Press

  • Tax credits for families that don’t qualify.
  • Medicare payments for treatments that might not be necessary.
  • Unemployment benefits for people who are secretly working.

Federal agencies reported making $100 billion in payments last year to people who may not have been entitled to receive them.

Congressional investigators say the figure could be even higher.

“The amounts here are absolutely staggering,” said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla. “It’s over $100 billion each of the last five years. That’s a staggering half a trillion dollars in improper payments.”

Mica chairs the House Oversight government operations subcommittee, which held a hearing on improper payments Wednesday.

Each year, federal agencies are required to estimate the amount of improper payments they issue. They include overpayments, underpayments, payments to the wrong recipient and payments that were made without proper documentation.

Some improper payments are the result of fraud, while others are unintentional, caused by clerical errors or mistakes in awarding benefits without proper verification.

In 2013, federal agencies made $97 billion in overpayments, according to agency estimates. Underpayments totaled $9 billion. That adds up to $106 billion in improper payments.

The Obama administration has reduced the amount of improper payments since they peaked at $121 billion in 2010. The administration has stepped up efforts to measure improper payments, identify the cause and develop plans to reduce them, said Beth Cobert, deputy director of the White House budget office.

Federal agencies recovered more than $22 billion in overpayments last year, she said.

“We have taken an aggressive approach to attacking waste, fraud and abuse within federal agencies, and we will continue to seek out new and innovative tools to help us in this fight,” Cobert told the subcommittee.

However, a new report by the Government Accountability Office questions the accuracy of agency estimates, suggesting that the real tally could be higher. The GAO is the investigative arm of Congress.

The American Dream is alive but it will cost you $130k a year

The American Dream has been a focal point and topic of debate since the financial crisis of 2008: Citizens and politicians alike are asking whether it’s time to redefine what success looks like in the U.S.

Essentials 1
Source: USA Today

According to Howard Gold, columnist for MarketWatch and founder of GoldenEgg Investing, the white picket fence and security that hard work can bring is still alive, but it will cost you … a lot. In a USA Today article, Gold calculated that, for a family of four, living out the American Dream costs just over $130,000 a year.

“This isn’t about being rich,” Gold tells Yahoo Finance. “It’s about providing security and a good life for your children and opportunities for your children… this is probably what a good middle class to upper-middle class life in America would cost.”

Essentials 2
Source: USA Today

Considering that the average household in the United States makes $51,371 per year, it seems that the dream is unobtainable to most. In fact, according to Gold’s estimates, only one in eight, or about 16 million, American households achieve this standard of living.

“A lot of this is subjective,” Gold admits. Costs vary according to location and ideals. “In Indianapolis or Tulsa, your cost of living is much lower than if you live in New York or San Francisco, where arguably living the American dream would cost a lot more than this,” says Gold. “I even got a Twitter comment saying, ‘You should come visit us in Pennsylvania; we’re living the American Dream on $40,000 a year.’”

Essentials 3
Source: USA Today

Across the U.S., fast food and other low-wage workers have been protesting, calling for income equality and demanding a living wage. President Barack Obama has also called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage.

In a recent press conference, the president stated that, “This increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country, and it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people.” He has also called income inequality “the defining challenge of our time” and has said it defines “everything I do in office.”

Submitted by Nicole GoodkindYahoo Finance

28.5 Million Cars Recalled By GM In The First Half Of 2014

We at Prepare and Prosper support American enterprise. Personally I have been a loyal GM customer for most of my 35 year car buying lifetime. But what is going on with GM over the past six months is just ridiculous. GM has become the biggest company joke in the history of the US – maybe global – automotive industry, putting even East Germany’s infamous Trabant to shame.

Things like following the recently announced recall of another 7.6 million cars across models from 1997 to 2014, and another 800,000 cars thrown in. GM has recalled more cars in the first six months of 2014 than it has sold in all of 2011, 2012 and 2013 combined.

Gm total recalls vs sales

It took GM over a decade to recall millions of cars with a faulty ignition switch resulted in a reported 54 accidents and 13 deaths. The actual accident and death toll will likely climb significantly before this is over. In hiding the ignition switch defect GM essentially risked the lives of every one of their customers -– millions of people — to protect their profit. Looking at the published photographs of those who died, all of them appear to be young inexperienced drivers who likely panicked when the engine turned off and they couldn’t steer the car or brake.

GM announced that it would “take a charge of up to approximately $1.2 billion in the second quarter for the cost of recall-related repairs announced in the quarter.” It now appears this “non-recurring”  charge may not be non-recurring or one-time.

Inexplicably GM’s sales have increased despite the massive recalls. Why is anyone still buying the garbage this company still makes, especially in light of the company’s admission that it will risk customer lives on a grand scale if it allows it to save shareholder value.

It may get nastier for GM now that recently the Orange County district attorney filed a civil lawsuit against GM for “intentionally concealing defects” and putting human lives at risk in order to boost profits. We expect the lawsuits to mount, and mount and mount. This recall scandal has the potential (although it is not likely) to bring down GM. We realize GM directly and indirectly supports hundreds of thousands of job but we find it impossible to support this type of negligence, incompetence, unethical and downright criminal behavior.

Below is a table laying out all the 28,470,653 cars GM has recalled in the first half of 2014. At this rate GM may recall more cars by the end of 2014 than it has made since emerging from bankruptcy!

Gm total recalls

Submitted By Zerohedge.

The Never Ending Recession — Should I Trust the Government?

We know the BEA has deflated GDP by only 32 percent since 2000. We know the BLS reports the CPI has only risen by 37 percent since 2000. Should I trust the government or trust the facts and my own eyes? Americans know what it cost for food, energy, shelter, healthcare, transportation and entertainment in 2000, but they unquestioningly accept the falsified inflation figures produced by the government. The chart below is a fairly comprehensive list of items most people might need to live in this world. A critical thinking individual might wonder how the government can proclaim inflation of 32 percent to 37 percent over the last fourteen years, when the true cost of living has grown by 50 percent to 100 percent for most daily living expenses. The huge increases in:

  • property taxes,
  • sales taxes,
  • government fees,
  • and income taxes

aren’t even factored in the chart. It seems gold has smelled out the currency debasement.

Living Expense

You should not trust government statistics – any government statistic. They have systematically under-reported inflation. The reality that we remain stuck in a fourteen year recession is borne out by:

  • the continued decline in vehicle miles driven (at 1995 levels) due to declining commercial activity,
  • the millions of shuttered small businesses,
  • and the proliferation of Space Available signs in strip malls and office parks across the land.

The fact there are only 8 million more people employed today than were employed in 2000, despite the working age population growing by 35 million, might be a clue that we remain in recession. If that isn’t enough proof for you, than maybe a glimpse at real median household income, retail sales and housing will put the final nail in the coffin.

The government and their media mouthpieces expect the masses to believe they have advanced their standard of living, with median household income growing from $40,800 to $52,500 since 2000. But, even using the badly flawed CPI to adjust these figures into real terms reveals real median household income to be 7.3 percent below the level of 2000. Using a true inflation figure would cause a CNBC talking head to have an epileptic seizure.

household-income-monthly-median-since-2000

The picture is even bleaker when broken down into the age of households, with younger households suffering devastating real declines in household income since 2000. I guess all those retail clerk, cashier, waitress, waiter, food prep, and housekeeper jobs created over the last few years aren’t cutting the mustard. Maybe that explains the 30 million increase (175% increase) in food stamp recipients since 2000, encompassing 19 percent of all households in the U.S. The increase credit card, auto and student loan debt over the fourteen year period 2000 to 2014 is likely an attempt by households to maintain their standard of living via debt.

household-median-income-by-age-bracket-2012-table

When you get your head around this unprecedented decline in household income over the last fourteen years, along with the 50 percent to 100 percent rise in costs to live in the real world, as opposed to the theoretical world of the Federal Reserve and BLS, you will understand the long term decline in retail sales reflected in the following chart. When you adjust monthly retail sales for gasoline (an additional tax), inflation (understated), and population growth, you understand why retailers are closing thousands of stores and hurdling towards inevitable bankruptcy. Retail sales are 6.9 percent below the June 2005 peak and 4 percent below levels reached in 2000. And this is with millions of retail square feet added over this time frame. We know the dramatic surge from the 2009 lows was not prompted by an increase in household income. So how did the 11 percent proliferation of spending happen?

Retail-Sales-ex-gas-adjusted-for-population-and-inflation

The up swell in retail spending began to accelerate in late 2010. Considering credit card debt outstanding is at exactly where it was in October 2010, it seems consumers playing with their own money turned off the spigot of speculation. It has been non-revolving debt that has skyrocketed from $1.63 trillion in February 2010 to $2.26 trillion today. This unprecedented 39 percent rise in four years has been engineered by the government, using your tax dollars and the tax dollars of future generations. The Federal government has complete control of the student loan market and with their 85 percent ownership of Ally Financial, the largest auto financing company, a dominant position in the auto loan market. The peddling of $400 billion of subprime student loan debt and $200 billion of subprime auto loan debt has created the illusion of a retail recovery. The student loan debt has been utilized by University of Phoenix MBA wannabes  to buy iGadgets, the latest PS3 version of Grand Theft Auto and the latest glazed donut breakfast sandwich on the market. It’s nothing but another debt financed bubble that will end in tears for the American taxpayer, as hundreds of billions will be written off.

The fake retail recovery pales in comparison to the wolves of Wall Street produced housing recovery sham. They deserve an Academy Award for best fantasy production. The Federal Reserve fed Wall Street hedge fund purchase of millions of foreclosed homes across the nation has produced home price increases of 10 percent to 30 percent in cities across the country. Withholding foreclosures from the market and creating artificial demand with free money provided by the Federal Reserve has temporarily added $4 trillion of housing net worth and reduced the number of underwater mortgages on the books of the Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks. The percentage of investor purchases and cash purchases is at all-time highs, while the percentage of first time buyers is at all-time lows. Anyone with an ounce of common sense can look at the long-term chart of mortgage applications and realize we are still in a recession. Applications are 35 percent below levels at the depths of the 2008/2009 recession. Applications are 65 percent below levels at the housing market peak in 2005. They are even 35 percent below 2000 levels. There is no real housing recovery, despite the propaganda peddled by the NAR, CNBC, and Wall Street. It’s a fraud.

MBAMar122014

It is the pinnacle of arrogance and hubris that a few Ivy League educated economists sitting in the Marriner Eccles Building in the swamps of Washington D.C., who have never worked a day in their lives at a real job, think they can create wealth and pull the levers of money creation to control the American and global financial systems. All they have done is perfect the art of bubble finance. Their policies have induced unwarranted hope and speculation on a grand scale. Greenspan and Bernanke have provoked multiple bouts of extreme speculation in stocks and housing over the last 15 years, with the subsequent inevitable collapses. Fed encouraged gambling does not create wealth it just redistributes it from the middle class to the elites. The Fed has again produced an epic bubble in stock and bond valuations which will result in another collapse. Normalcy bias keeps the majority from seeing the cliff straight ahead. Federal Reserve monetary policies have distorted financial markets, created extreme imbalances, encouraged excessive risk taking, and ruined the lives of working class people. Take a long hard look at the chart below and answer one question. Was QE designed to benefit Main Street or Wall Street?

sp-500-vs-federal-reserve-balance-sheet1

The average American has experienced a fourteen year recession caused by the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve. Our leaders could have learned the lesson of two Fed induced collapses in the space of eight years and voluntarily abandoned the policies of reckless credit expansion, instead embracing policies encouraging saving, capital investment and balanced budgets. They have chosen the same cure as the disease, which will lead to crisis, catastrophe and collapse. 

“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.” – Ludwig von Mises

The Never Ending Recession–What’s In Your GDP

“The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is one of the broader measures of economic activity and is the most widely followed business indicator reported by the U.S. government. Upward growth biases built into GDP modeling since the early 1980s, however, have rendered this important series nearly worthless as an indicator of economic activity. The popularly followed number in each release is the seasonally adjusted, annualized quarterly growth rate of real (inflation-adjusted) GDP, where the current-dollar number is deflated by the BEA’s estimates of appropriate price changes. It is important to keep in mind that the lower the inflation rate used in the deflation process, the higher will be the resulting inflation-adjusted GDP growth.”John Williams – Shadowstats

GDP is the economic statistic bankers, politicians and media pundits use to convince the masses the economy is growing and their lives are improving. Therefore, it is the statistic most likely to be manipulated, twisted and engineered in order to portray the storyline required by the elite. Two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth usually marks a recession. Those in power do not like to report recessions, so data “massaging” has been required over the last few decades to generate the required result. Prior to 1991 the government reported the broader GNP, which includes the GDP plus the balance of international flows of interest and dividend payments. Once we became a debtor nation, with massive interest payments to foreigners, reporting GNP became inconvenient. It is not reported because it is approximately $900 billion lower than GDP. The creativity of our leaders knows no bounds. In July of 2013 the government decided they had found a more “accurate” method for measuring GDP and simply retroactively increased GDP by $500 billion – essentially out of thin air. It’s amazing how every “more accurate” accounting adjustment improves the reported data. Economic growth didn’t change, but GDP was boosted by 3 percent. However, this upward adjustment pales in comparison to the decades long under-reporting of inflation baked into the GDP calculation.

GDP is adjusted for inflation. The higher inflation factored into the calculation, the lower reported GDP. The inflation deflator used by the BEA in their GDP calculation is even lower than the already bastardized CPI. According to the BEA, there has only been 32 percent inflation since the year 2000. They have only found 1.4 percent inflation in the last year and only 7.1 percent in the last five years. You’d have to be a zombie from the Walking Deador an Ivy League economist to believe those lies. Anyone living in the real world knows their cost of living has risen at a far greater 70 rate. According to the government, and unquestioningly reported by the compliant co-conspirators in the the corporate media, GDP has grown from $10 trillion in 2000 to $17 trillion today. That  percent growth over the last fourteen years is dramatically overstated, as revealed in the graph below. Using a true rate of inflation exposes the fraud being committed by those in power. The country has been in a never ending recession since 2000.

sgs-gdp

Your normalcy bias is telling you this is impossible. Your government tells you we have only experienced a recession from the third quarter of 2008 through the third quarter of 2009. So despite experiencing two stock market crashes, the greatest housing crash in history, and a worldwide financial system implosion the authorities insist  we’ve had a growing economy 93 percent of the time over the last fourteen years. That mental anguish you are feeling is the dissonance of wanting to believe your government, but knowing they are lying. It is a known fact the government, in conspiracy with Greenspan, Congress and academia, have systematically reduced the reported CPI based on:

  • hedonistic quality adjustments,
  • geometric weighting alterations,
  • substitution modifications,
  • and the creation of incomprehensible owner’s equivalent rent calculations.

Since the 1700s consumer inflation had been estimated by measuring price changes in a fixed-weight basket of goods, effectively measuring the cost of maintaining a constant standard of living. This began to change in the early 1980s with the Greenspan Commission to “save” Social Security and came to a head with the Boskin Commission in 1995.

Simply stated, the Greenspan/Boskin Commissions’ task was to reduce future Social Security payments to senior citizens by reducing the CPI and thereby reducing cost of living adjustments to social security recipients. The tactic provided an “easy way out” for politicians. Politicians would lose votes if they ever had to directly address the unsustainability of Social Security. As a result, they allowed academics to work their magic by understating the CPI and stealing $700 billion from retirees in the ten years ending in 2006. With 10,000 baby boomers per day turning 65 for the next eighteen years, understating CPI will rob them of trillions in payments. This is a cowardly dishonest method of extending the life of Social Security.

If CPI was calculated exactly as it was computed prior to 1983, it would have averaged between 5 percent and 10 percent over the last fourteen years. Even computing it based on the 1990 calculation prior to the Boskin Commission adjustments, would have produced annual inflation of 4 percent to 7 percent. A glance at an inflation chart from 1872 through today reveals the complete and utter failure of the Federal Reserve in achieving their stated mandate of price stability. They have managed to reduce the purchasing power of your dollar by 95 percent over the last 100 years. You may also notice the net deflation from 1872 until 1913, when the American economy was growing rapidly. It is almost as if the Federal Reserve’s true mandate has been to create:

  • inflation,
  • finance wars,
  • perpetuate the proliferation of debt,
  • artificially create booms and busts,
  • enrich their Wall Street owners,
  • and impoverish the masses. Happy Birthday Federal Reserve!

inflation-1872-present-alt-cpi

When you connect the dots you realize the under-reporting of inflation benefits not only the government but corporations as well. If the government was reporting the true rate of inflation, corporations would be forced to pay their workers higher wages, reducing profits, reducing corporate bonuses, and reducing profits.  Reporting a true rate of inflation would force long-term interest rates higher. These higher rates, along with higher COLA increases to government entitlements, would blow a hole in the deficit and force politicians to address our unsustainable economic system.