Great Depression

Signs Of The Time, Part 91

The other day I heard a $2 million “Great Gatsby”-themed 60th birthday party was just thrown for manufactured celebrity Kris Jenner…


“Kris Jenner’s Epic 60th Birthday Party”
YouTube Video

The Great Gatsby, a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald that portrays that period of time in America known as the “Roaring Twenties.”

Which also preceded another chapter in U.S. history known as the “Great Depression.”

I have a deep suspicion that history is about to “rhyme” once more.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 Depression, Signs Of The Time No Comments

Crain’s Chicago Business: Pension Reform Ruling Could Cost Taxpayers Extra $200 Million A Year Through End Of Decade

In my Sunday post about Chicago’s pension reform legislation being ruled unconstitutional, I blogged:

Chicagoans- let that last line from Dardick and Pearson sink in real good:

“Taxpayers could eventually be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars more in annual payments to those city funds — before the even worse-funded police and fire retirement accounts are factored into the taxing equation…”

How many hundreds of millions are we talking about here?

Greg Hinz wrote in his blog on the Crain’s Chicago Business website Monday:

The court decision throwing out a deal to refinance two Chicago pension funds appears to be among the most costly in the city’s history, in some ways ranking right up there with the Great Chicago Fire.

Exact figures are not available and vary some depending on who’s doing the estimating. But based on statements by city officials and documents filed by the pension funds themselves, it’s likely that the decision by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Rita Novak will cost city taxpayers around $200 million a year through the end of the decade—and will keep rising for decades thereafter.

“You’d have to go back to either the Depression or the Great Fire to find a comparable situation in which the city faced either greater challenges or more painful decisions,” Civic Federation President Laurence Msall said. “It’s clearly going to result in increased taxes and reduced services.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Remember, that additional $200 million hit to Chicago taxpayers would come on top of addressing fire and police pensions. And bailing out the Chicago Public Schools, which had its credit rating reduced to junk status today by Fitch Ratings. In May, I noted Moody’s downgraded the Chicago Board of Education (the primary debt issuers of CPS) three notches to junk.

You can read Hinz’s entire blog post on the Crain’s Chicago Business website here. If I were still a Chicago resident, I’d probably find it disturbing. But at least I’d be clued in as to what could be coming down the line.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Bill Introduced To Permit Illinois Municipalities To File For Bankruptcy

Since I started blogging about a U.S. financial crash back on Memorial Day Weekend 2007, I’ve believed one casualty will be municipal government. Particularly in Illinois. So imagine my non-surprise when I spotted an article on the Chicago Tribune website a couple of days ago about proposed legislation at the state level granting Illinois towns the authority to file for bankruptcy. Nick Swedberg of the Associated Press wrote on March 26:

Stressed by pension debt, other financial issues and the possibility losing a chunk of their state aid, some Illinois cities want the option to file for bankruptcy. They’ve found an ally in a Republican lawmaker, who’s proposed legislation to allow municipalities to follow in the footsteps of Detroit and other cities in restructuring debt and paying back creditors…

Rep. Ron Sandack is sponsoring legislation that would grant authority for communities to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9 of the federal code. The Downers Grove Republican says it’s a “measure of last resort,” especially with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal in next year’s budget to cut in half the local governments’ share of state income taxes by 50 percent.

“It’s just giving time and space to do things right,” he said…

Swedberg added later in the piece:

Municipal bankruptcies are rare, NCSL data shows. Of 37 local government filings since 2010, only 8 were cities, with the majority filed by utilities and special districts.

Detroit filed for the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in July 2013, looking to restructure $12 billion of debt…

It’s true. Municipal bankruptcies haven’t happened too often. But keep in mind what Eric Weiner wrote on the NPR website back on February 28, 2008:

For most of U.S. history, cities and towns were not eligible for bankruptcy protection. But during the Great Depression, more than 2,000 municipalities defaulted on their debt, and they pleaded with President Roosevelt for a federal bailout. “All they got was sympathy,” reported Time magazine in 1933. Instead, Roosevelt pushed through changes to the bankruptcy laws that allows towns and cities to file for bankruptcy. They even got their own section of the bankruptcy code: Chapter Nine…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

There’s also this from Robert Slavin on The Bond Buyer website back on January 14:

For the municipal bond industry, 2015 marks the midpoint in what may turn out to be the decade of the bankruptcy.

Four of the five largest municipal bankruptcy filings in United States history have been made in roughly the last three years, a trend analysts attribute to the aftereffects of the 2008 credit crisis and Great Recession, as well as changing attitudes about debt.

“The crash of 2008 and five years of stagnation preceded by years of escalating wages, pensions and Other Post-Employment Benefits set the stage for our recent Chapter 9 filings,” said Arent Fox partner David Dubrow.

Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy was adopted in 1937 but had been rarely used, particularly by large governments. However, since November 2011 San Bernardino, Calif., Stockton, Calif., Jefferson County, Ala., and Detroit have filed four of the five largest bankruptcies as measured by total obligations.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Could the specter of Meredith Whitney, the “Diva Of Doom,” be returning to take revenge on the municipal bond industry?

I’m not surprised Illinois municipalities would be interested in House Bill 298. From Patrick Rehkamp and Andrew Schroedter on the website of the Chicago-based Better Government Association back on December 6, 2014:

Reasons for filing vary but often include troubled public development projects, unanticipated hefty legal judgments against a taxpayer-backed entity, or massive pension and bond debt payments that leave a municipality cash-strapped and unable to cover operating costs of employee salaries, vendor payments and other expenses.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The public pension crisis in Chicago and Illinois has been well-publicized for some time now. And while such entitlements are supposedly protected by a provision in the 1970 Illinois Constitution, the BGA noted in their piece:

In Illinois, public employee pensions are guaranteed by the state constitution. But in the Detroit and Stockton, California bankruptcy cases, federal judges have ruled that pension benefits can be adjusted, the same as other debts, despite a constitutional guarantee.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You can track the progress of HB 298 on the Illinois General Assembly website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Swedberg, Nick. “Bill pushes for possible municipal bankruptcies in Illinois.” Associated Press. 29 Mar. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-bc-il–closer-look-bankruptcy-20150329-story.html). 3 Apr. 2015.

Weiner, Eric. “What Happens When City Hall Goes Bankrupt?” NPR. 28 Feb. 2008. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=60740288). 3 Apr. 2015.

Slavin, Robert. “Why So Many Big Bankruptcies?” The Bond Buyer. 14 Jan. 2015. (http://www.bondbuyer.com/news/markets-buy-side/why-so-many-big-bankruptcies-1069539-1.html). 3 Apr. 2015.

Rehkamp, Patrick and Schroedter, Andrew. “Next Up: Illinois Municipal Bankruptcy?” Better Government Association. 16 Dec. 2014. (http://www.bettergov.org/next_up_illinois_municipal_bankruptcy/). 4 Apr. 2015.

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Obama Taunts Republicans On Economy: ‘The Sky Hasn’t Fallen, Chicken Little Is Quiet’

Back when I was running this blog’s predecessor, Boom2Bust.com, “The Most Hated Blog On Wall Street,” I remember coming across a number of infamous statements made prior to and during the Great Depression by leaders in government, finance, and industry of the day. For example, as Fox News cataloged back on October 26, 2009:

“We will not have any more crashes in our time.” – John Maynard Keynes (1927)

“There is no cause to worry. The high tide of prosperity will continue.” – Andrew W. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury. (September 1929)

“There may be a recession in stock prices, but not anything in the nature of a crash.” – Irving Fisher, Leading U.S. Economist, New York Times (Sept. 5, 1929)

“This crash is not going to have much effect on business.” – Arthur Reynolds, Chairman of Continental Illinois Bank of Chicago (October 24, 1929)

October 24, 1929, eventually became known in the history books as “Black Thursday,” when “the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 11% at the open in very heavy volume, precipitating the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression of the 1930s,” according to Investopedia.com.

Right before the weekend, the White House published a press release on their website containing a transcript of U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarks Friday at the Democratic National Committee’s Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. From that document:

I just want everybody to remember that at every step as we made policies, as we made this progress, we were told by our good friends, the Republicans, that our actions would crush jobs, and explode deficits, and destroy the country. I mean, I want everybody to do a fact-check — (laughter) — and go back to 2009, 2010, ’11, ’12, ’13 — just go back and look at the statements that were made each year by these folks about all these policies. Because apparently they don’t remember. (Laughter.)

And now that their grand predictions of doom and gloom, and death panels and Armageddon haven’t come true — (laughter) — the sky hasn’t fallen, Chicken Little is quiet — (laughter)

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Something tells me this remark- akin to calling the outcome of a baseball game while it’s still in the early innings- will end up in the U.S. history books as well down the road, under that section entitled “Second Great Depression.”

“Let’s play two!” No thanks, Mr. Banks.

To be fair, President Obama isn’t entirely responsible for the coming financial crash. The actions of both sides of the political aisle through the decades have made the approaching “financial reckoning day” possible- and likely- in America.

You can read the complete transcript of President Obama’s speech on the White House website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“False Hope: Famous Quotes During the Great Depression.” FoxNews.com. 26 Oct. 2009. (http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/10/26/false-hope-famous-quotes-during-great-depression/). 22 Feb. 2015.

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Nouriel Roubini: ‘Mother Of All Asset Bubbles’ To Pop In 2016

One of the original “crash prophets” of the 2008 global economic crisis is now sounding the alarm over what he sees in 2016.

I first mentioned Nouriel Roubini, a former Treasury official under the Clinton administration, a professor of economics at NYU, and chairman of Roubini Global Economics, in my old blog Boom2Bust.com several years ago. Roubini correctly-predicted the financial crisis, but “Dr. Doom”- as the financial media likes to call him- had become more optimistic this year. On May 14, 2014, he “debated” fellow “prophet” Peter Schiff on CNBC’s Fast Money, saying:

We’re printing a lot of money but it’s not creating credit. It’s not creating inflation. And if we had not done this policy, this Great Recession would have become a Great Depression. So, inflation is going to stay low. Gold prices are going to fall. And I don’t believe that the dollar’s going to collapse. Actually, I believe the dollar’s going to become stronger in the next few years- just the opposite of what Peter thinks.

But these days, Dr. Roubini is starting to sound gloomy again. Last week, I happened to come across a Yahoo! Finance interview with Roubini from earlier this month. From an exchange with editor-in-chief Aaron Task:

TASK: Nouriel Roubini is often referred to as “Dr. Doom”- affectionately of course- but the NYU professor and chairman of Roubini Global Economics is not always downbeat. He prefers “Dr. Realist,” and in February 2013 Roubini told Yahoo! Finance and this reporter that, “The mother of all asset bubbles had begun, and would eventually be bigger than the 2003-2006 bubble.” Since that time the S&P 500 is up about 40 percent, so Nouriel, that was a great call if you were long, and bubbles are great if you’re long and you get out in time. Where do you see- what inning, if we use the baseball analogy, are we in in this bubble from your point of view?
ROUBINI: We’re in middle-later innings. Next year we’ll have economic growth. We’re still easy money. I think that this frothiness that we’ve seen in these financial markets is likely to continue- from equities to credit to housing. And in a couple of years, most likely, this asset inflation is going to become asset frothiness. And eventually, an asset and a credit bubble. And eventually, any booming bubble ends up a bust and a crash. I don’t expect that happening next year, but I would say that valuations in many markets- whether its government bonds or credit or real estate or some equity markets- are already stretched. They’re going to become more stretched as the real economy justifies a slow exit, and all this liquidity is going into more asset inflation. And so, two years down the line for them to shake out, but not before then.
TASK: A couple of years down the line, okay.
ROUBINI: Yeah. 2016 I would say.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


“Roubini: U.S. equities will be strong until 2016”
Yahoo! Finance Video

Dr. Roubini gave this advice to investors:

At this point, I would be neutral or underweight U.S. equities compared to other markets.

As for “best bets” in 2015, he told viewers:

Several I would say. I would say, dollar strength relative to the euro, relative to the yen, relative to the commodity currencies, relative to fragile emerging markets. And a bet on commodities further another leg down, certainly industrial metals like copper and others linked to China. Those will be two of the stories for 2015.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Profitable Assets, Professions In Germany’s Hyperinflation Of The 1920s

Since I started being concerned back in 2004 about the prospect of a U.S. financial crash, I’ve been interested in reading about the everyday lives of the people who lived through economic collapses.

Why? Because I believe there are valuable lessons to be learned for what I think is coming down the road for us here in America.

I haven’t really come across any good Great Depression accounts yet (if you know of one- shoot me over a suggestion). But the other night, I happened to stumble upon a rather lengthy article on the website of Der Spiegel (Germany) that provided a great deal of insight of what went on in Germany during their devastating bout with hyperinflation in the 1920s. Alexander Jung even went so far as to identify the financial “winners” and “losers” during that period of time. Jung wrote back on August 14, 2009:

The only objects of real value were tangible assets: diamonds and coins, antiques, pianos and art. The works of contemporary artists like Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee, Max Pechstein and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff were in especially high demand. And if you had foreign currency, you lived like a king

The stupid ones were those who had nest eggs: the thrifty, holders of government bonds, but primarily the country’s pensioners. In other words, those who received money without having to work for it, who lived on their pensions or the interest on their savings. Large sections of the middle classes saw themselves stripped of their assets, losing almost everything they had set aside for years. Banks, savings banks, and insurance companies suffered huge losses and were left with nothing but their paper money. As a result, they had to start the majority of their businesses from scratch in 1924.

By perverse contrast, the winners of the hyperinflation were those with massive debts; first and foremost the state, but also private individuals who had borrowed money to buy houses, construction land or farmland, and whose loans were slashed by the switch to the rentenmark.

Some industrialists made huge gains from the period of hyperinflation. Hugo Stinnes, whom Time magazine crowned “Germany’s new Kaiser,” built up an immense corporate empire comprising heavy industry, newspapers, ships and hotels — all based on a mountain of debt. As late as the summer of 1922, Stinnes was recommending that people continue capitalizing on “the weapon of inflation.” Indeed manufacturers and craftsmen in general profited from the crisis since they possessed plants and buildings — that is, tangible assets that outlived the currency switch.

Most farmers also did extremely well. “They had money to burn, and spent it willy-nilly,” writer Lion Feuchtwanger recalled. Some bought themselves entire stables of racehorses, others expensive cars. “Farmer Greindlberger drove from the grimy village street of Englschalking to Munich in an elegant limousine complete with a liveried chauffeur, while he himself was dressed in a brown velvet jacket and a green chamois-tufted hat,” Feuchtwanger wrote of the rural rich…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

That last bit about farmers buying expensive cars reminds me of what “crash prophet” Jim Rogers has been telling anyone who will listen:

The farmers are going to be driving Lamborghinis and Maseratis.

Anyway, the quote doesn’t do the piece justice. I recommend you read the entire article on the Der Spiegel site here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Milestone: Survival And Prosperity Reaches 2,000 Posts

Yesterday was a milestone for Survival And Prosperity:

2,000 posts have now been published on the blog

Not bad considering the weblog was started a little less than three-and-a-half years ago.

My previous flagship blog, Boom2Bust.com, “The Most Hated Blog On Wall Street,” only reached around 1,500 posts.

I think a little celebration is called for, don’t you?


“Clerks Dance”
YouTube Video

There’s lots more blogging to be done. Washington and the Fed has managed to “kick the can down the road” this far, and while the economic picture might look rosy to many for a bit longer, I’m still not deviating from that prediction I made back on Memorial Day Weekend 2007 about a U.S. financial crash.

In fact, I believe we’ve already started into the descent. And gradually, the U.S. economy and larger financial system that is weighed down by tremendous debt and steered by greed, arrogance, and incompetence will eventually crash hard.

That being said, America has been here before (Great Depression). And I do see the country getting back on firm economic ground again. But only after the excesses off a multi-decade debt binge are effectively purged.

No “doomsday,” but definitely a “financial reckoning day.”

In the meantime, it’s probably wise to take advantage of the present situation to prepare for what I see is in store for the country down the road. Whether that means finding a line of work that’s more stable or acquiring more income to preserve one’s standard of living in hard times, it’s something one may want to look into and take action on while it’s still possible to do so. Of course, individual circumstances vary. Still, improving one’s self-sufficiency- even incrementally- can make a big difference in an emergency or major crisis. It’s something our predecessors in this great nation of ours understood and practiced, but unfortunately has fallen by the wayside in modern times.

Survival and prosperity. That’s what this blog continues to be all about.

Christopher E. Hill
Editor

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Quote For The Week

With virtually zero support from the Republicans, the president and I have moved the country from the worst recession since the Great Depression to 38 months of private-sector growth.

-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, at a Virginia Democratic fundraiser on Saturday, June 29 (Source: Associated Press)

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Has A Currency War Begun?

A currency war.

Like what happened in the 1930s.

There’s growing talk about it these days. From Matt Clinch on the CNBC website this morning:

As countries try to weaken their currencies to boost exports, the risk of a currency war similar to events seen in the 1930s has heightened and policymakers are making sure they are on the winning side, according to Morgan Stanley.

The balance of power now rests with Japan, according to the bank, as Japan’s policy-makers’ more dovish approach looks set to bring the world a step closer to a currency war…

“If a weaker yen is an important pillar of the strategy to make this export-oriented economy more competitive again, it brings into the picture something that was missing from earlier interactions among central banks of the advanced economies- competitive depreciation,” it said in a research note.

“This, in turn, takes us one step closer to a currency war.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Yesterday I mentioned trends forecaster Gerald Celente. The founder and director of The Trends Research Institute appeared on the FOX Business Network’s The Tom Sullivan Show on January 26 and talked a good deal about currency wars, and thinks one is already underway. Celente told viewers:

Pick up the Financial Times, pick up the Wall Street Journal, pick up anything. Read the headlines. Currency Wars, Currency Wars, Currency Wars, Currency Wars. That’s what I’m concerned about. We’re seeing a replay in time. The Crash of 1929, a Great Depression, Currency Wars, Trade Wars, World War. The Panic of ’08. The Great Depression is a depression going on in a lot of places around the world. There’s Currency Wars.

Listen to Weber, the head of the UBS, former president of Deutsche Bank. His words at Davos- there’s a currency war. Listen to Mervyn King, the outgoing head of the Bank of England- there’s a currency war. Listen to Mantega, Brazil- there’s a currency war.

Celente went on to predict trade wars are on the horizon.


“Gerald Celente – Tom Sullivan on Fox Business News – January 26, 2013”
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Clinch, Matt. “Currency Wars Return, 1930s Style: Who Will Lose Out?” CNBC. 7 Feb. 2013. (http://www.cnbc.com/id/100441340). 7 Feb. 2013.

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Seen On The Streets, Part 4

In my neighborhood on Chicago’s Northwest Side, there a number of individuals who come around on a regular basis to “aid” residents in their recycling efforts.

First, there’s “Sanford and Son,” who drive their old, red pickup truck around the back of nearby condominium/apartment complexes, hauling away large household items that might be of value.

Second, there’s “Can Man,” a senior citizen who pedals up to the back of these multi-housing buildings and retrieves pop (soda to non-Chicagoans) cans out of the recycling bins.

And as of a couple of days ago, there’s the “Two Amigos,” two young Hispanic men in a North Carolina-plated pickup truck who I saw digging through the garbage dumpsters of these properties, retrieving anything that could be worth something. From the looks of it, they got their hands on some old computer equipment.

Thankfully, these newcomers were courteous enough to put everything back in place once they were done for the day.

But their arrival got me thinking. Who’s next? Should economic conditions keep deteriorating over the long-run (like I think it will), will we be seeing hungry Americans picking through the trash for their next meal?

Will we be one of the famished?

Don’t think it will get to that point? We’ve been down that road before- in the Great Depression. A quick search engine query with relevant keywords reveals accounts like:

Although few people died from starvation, many did not have enough to eat. Some people searched garbage dumps for food or ate weeds. Malnutrition took a toll: A study conducted in eight American cities found that families that had a member working full time experienced 66 percent less illness than those in which everyone was unemployed.

And:

“Food and jobs were hard to get and many people stood in lines for government hand-outs. A lot of people lived on powdered milk, dried beans, and potatoes.” In Chicago, a crowd of men fought over a barrel of garbage — food scraps for their families.

I can only hope Americans will never witness anything like this again. But it did happen here. And it’s taking place overseas today even in “First-World” countries like Spain as the global economic crisis that reared its ugly head in 2008 marches on:


“Spain: The economic crisis forces people to eat waste food”
YouTube Video

Obviously, there’s a lot to be said for setting aside extra food in case the means to pay for it dries up or some other disaster strikes. While that’s a topic I will talk about more in the future, just remember that’s it’s never too late to starting looking into and implementing some kind of food acquisition and storage program.

If anything, because I don’t want you to be that person rifling through garbage cans some day.

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Survival And Prosperity
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Christopher E. Hill, Editor

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