Marshall Sutherland
  
Sovereign ManSovereign Man wrote the following post Mon, 12 Feb 2018 11:05:10 -0500
This may be the beginning of the Great Financial Reckoning
This may be the beginning of the Great Financial Reckoning

Less than two weeks ago, the United States Department of Treasury very quietly released its own internal projections for the federal government’s budget deficits over the next several years.

And the numbers are pretty gruesome.

In order to plug the gaps from its soaring deficits, the Treasury Department expects to borrow nearly $1 trillion this fiscal year.

Then nearly $1.1 trillion next fiscal year.

And up to $1.3 trillion the year after that.

This means that the national debt will exceed $25 trillion by September 30, 2020.

Remember, this isn’t some wild conspiracy theory. These are official government projections published by the United States Department of Treasury.

This story alone is monumental– not only does the US owe, by far, the greatest amount of debt ever accumulated by a single nation in human history, but $25 trillion is larger than the debts of every other nation in the world combined.

But there are other themes at work here that are even more important.

For example– how is it remotely possible that the federal government can burn through $1 trillion?

Everything is supposedly totally awesome in the United States. The economy is strong, unemployment is low, tax revenue is at record levels.

It’s not like they had to fight a major two front war, save the financial system from an epic crisis, or battle a severe economic depression.

It’s just been business as usual. Nothing really out of the ordinary.

And yet they’re still losing trillions of dollars.

This is pretty scary when you think about it. What’s going to happen to the US federal deficit when there actually IS a financial crisis or major recession?

And none of those possibilities are factored into their projections.

The largest problem of all, though, is that the federal government is going to have a much more difficult time borrowing the money.

For the past several years, the government has always been able to rely on the usual suspects to loan them money and buy up all the debt, namely– the Federal Reserve, the Chinese, and the Japanese.

Those three alone have loaned trillions of dollars to the US government since the end of the financial crisis.

The Federal Reserve in particular, through its “Quantitative Easing” programs, was on an all-out binge, buying up every long-dated Treasury Bond it could find, like some sort of junkie debt addict.

And both Chinese and Japanese holdings of US government debt now exceed $1 trillion each, more than double what they were before the 2008 crisis.

But now each of those three lenders is out of the game.

The Federal Reserve has formally ended its Quantitative Easing program. In other words, the Fed has said it will no longer conjure money out of thin air to buy US government debt.

The Chinese government said point blank last month that they were ‘rethinking’ their position on US government debt.

And the Japanese have their own problems at home to deal with; they need to scrap together every penny they can find to dump into their own economy.

Official data from the US Treasury Department illustrates this point– both China and Japan have slightly reduced their holdings of US government debt since last summer.

Bottom line, all three of the US government’s biggest lenders are no longer buyers of US debt.

There’s a pretty obvious conclusion here: interest rates have to rise.

It’s a simple issue of supply and demand. The supply of debt is rising. Demand is falling.

This means that the ‘price’ of debt will decrease, ergo interest rates will rise.

(Think about it like this– with so much supply and lower demand for its debt, the US government will have to pay higher interest rates in order to attract new lenders.)

Make no mistake: higher interest rates will have an enormous impact on just about EVERYTHING.

Many major asset prices tend to fall when interest rates rise.

Rising rates mean that it costs more money for companies to borrow, reducing their leverage and overall profitability. So stock prices typically fall.

It’s also important to note that, over the last several years when interest rates were basically ZERO, companies borrowed vast sums of money at almost no cost to buy back their own stock.

They were essentially using record low interest rates to artificially inflate their share prices.

Those days are rapidly coming to an end.

Property prices also tend to do poorly when interest rates rise.

Here’s a simplistic example: if you can afford the monthly mortgage payment to buy a $500,000 house when interest rates are 3%, that same monthly payment will only buy a $250,000 house when rates rise to 6%.

Rising rates mean that people won’t be able to borrow as much money to buy a home, and this typically causes property prices to fall.

Of course, higher interest rates also mean that the US government will take a major hit.

Remember that the federal government already has to borrow money just to pay interest on the money they’ve already borrowed.

So as interest rates go up, they’ll be paying even more each year in interest payments… which means they’ll have to borrow even more money to make those payments, which means they’ll be paying even more in interest payments, which means they’ll have to borrow even more, etc. etc.

It’s a pretty nasty cycle.

Finally, the broader US economy will likely take a hit with rising interest rates.

As we’ve discussed many times before, the US economy is based on consumption, not production, and it depends heavily on cheap money (i.e. lower interest rates), and cheap oil, in order to keep growing.

We’re already seeing the end of both of those, at least for now.

Both oil prices and interest rates have more than doubled from their lows, and it stands to reason that, at a minimum, interest rates will keep climbing.

So this may very well be the start of the great financial reckoning.

Source
 debt
Maria Karlsen
  
And with USA being so big - the rest of the world will be affected.
Marshall Sutherland
  
I've got a post on the "we owe it to ourselves" B.S. that some people like to say rolling around in my head. Maybe at some point I'll write it down.
Marshall Sutherland
  
Senate reaches budget deal to clean out your wallet | Libertarian Party

“The ‘bipartisan deal’ means that the politicians get what they want,” Sarwark said. “We, as taxpayers, will pay an extra $400 billion according to the Washington Post. More precisely, because nearly all this extra spending will be funded by borrowing more money, our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will pay. In individual terms, this means that every man, woman, and child in the United States will have $1,238 added to their federal tab. When we combine that with the GOP tax cut of $1.5 trillion, which was not accompanied by reduced spending, our additional federal credit charge adds up to $5,880 per person.”

What was the definition of "bipartisan" I gave just the other day?
Marshall Sutherland
  
I've assumed for decades that I would not be able to depend on Social Security when I got older. My eligibility isn't that far off and I haven't changed that assumption.

Sovereign ManSovereign Man wrote the following post Mon, 05 Feb 2018 10:33:43 -0500
This tiny corner of Rhode Island shows us the future of Social Security
This tiny corner of Rhode Island shows us the future of Social Security

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit gave us an interesting glimpse of the future last week when it ruled on an obscure case involving government pension obligations.

Ever since the mid-1990s, police officers and fire fighters in the town of Cranston, Rhode Island had been promised state pension benefits upon retirement.

But, facing critical budget shortfalls over the last several years that the Rhode Island government called “fiscal peril,” the state legislature voted to unilaterally reduce public employees’ pension benefits.

Even more, these cuts were retroactive, i.e. they didn’t just apply to new employees.

The changes were applied across the board; workers who had spent their entire careers being promised certain retirement benefits ended up having their pensions cut as well.

Even the court acknowledged that these changes “substantially reduced the value of public employee pensions provided by the Rhode Island system.”

So, naturally, a number of municipal employee unions sued.

And the case of Cranston’s police and fire fighter unions made it all the way to federal court.

The unions’ argument was that the government of Rhode Island was contractually bound to pay benefits– these benefits had been enshrined in long-standing state legislation, and they should be enforced just like any other contract.

The state government disagreed.

In their view, the legislature should be able to change laws, even retroactively, whenever it suits them.

Last week the First Circuit Court issued a final ruling and sided with the state of Rhode Island: the government has no obligation to honor its promises.

News like this will never make major headlines.

But here at Sovereign Man our team pays very close attention to these obscure court cases because they often set very dangerous precedents.

This one certainly does. Because Social Security is in even WORSE condition that the State of Rhode Island’s perilous pension system.

We talk about this a lot in our regular conversations.

According to the Board of Trustees for Social Security (which includes the US Treasury Secretary, the US Secretary for Health & Human Services, and the US Secretary of Labor), the Social Security trust funds “become depleted and unable to pay scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis in 2034.”

Once again– that’s the Treasury Secretary of the United States saying that Social Security will run out of money in 16 years.

You’d think this would be shouted from the rooftops, especially given how long it takes to save for retirement.

Yet instead the news is ignored or flat-out rejected by people who simply want to believe either that it’s not a problem, or that the government has some magical solution.

The First Circuit just showed us what the solution is: cutting benefits.

And now the government has legal precedent to do so.

They can retroactively slash whatever benefit they want in their sole discretion regardless of what legislation exists, or what promises have been made in the past.

Let’s be smart about this: the clock is ticking. Sixteen years may seem like a lifetime away, but with respect to retirement, it’s nothing.

Securing a comfortable retirement takes decades of careful planning, and a lot of folks are going to have to catch up.

Fortunately there are a lot of options available, but you’re going to have to take deliberate action.

For example, you could set up a more robust structure to help you put away even more money for retirement and invest in safer, more lucrative assets that are outside the mainstream.

A number of our readers, for example, are safely earning double-digit returns in secured, asset-backed lending deals with their properly structured IRA and 401(k) vehicles.

Here are a couple of options to consider.

This problem is completely solvable. But you’re going to have to solve it for yourself. You can’t rely on the government to fix it.

The First Circuit Court affirmed last week without a doubt that government promises aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

Source
 debt
Marshall Sutherland
  
I was listening to a podcast this morning and an interesting observation was made. Debt, equity, and government promises in some ways boil down to the same thing -- Paying for something now in exchange for the hoping to get something (hopefully more) back in the future.
Debt = I give you money now expecting to get that money back plus interest in the future
Equity = I give you money for ownership shares now expecting that I will get a higher price for them (and maybe dividends) in the future
Government promises = I pay you taxes now expecting that I will get valuable government services in the future
Marshall Sutherland
  
I sent this article to a friend in the financial services business and she thought it was a scary precedent. I told her:
Unfortunately, after decades of underfunding public pensions (which would probably be criminal, if a private entity did it), the choices in a lot of places are going to be either cut benefits before bankruptcy or cut benefits after bankruptcy.
Marshall Sutherland
  
Sovereign ManSovereign Man wrote the following post Wed, 31 Jan 2018 11:35:10 -0500
“We choose debt. . .”
“We choose debt. . .”

I’ve long held a working theory that US voters are completely predictable in Presidential elections.

The idea is that Americans almost invariably tend to swing wildly every few election cycles, voting for the candidate who is as close to the opposite of the current guy as possible.

Let’s go back a few decades to, say, Jimmy Carter.

In 1976, the country was sick and tired of the corruption, scandal, and disgrace of Richard Nixon’s administration (which at that point had been inherited by Gerald Ford).

Jimmy Carter was pretty much the opposite of Richard Nixon– a youthful outsider versus an aging crony.

After four years of economic disaster, Americans swung in the opposite direction from Carter, choosing an older, polished conservative in Ronald Reagan who represented strength and stability.

That trend lasted for twelve years– two terms with Reagan, and one term with his successor George HW Bush, after which the country swung in the other direction again– to Bill Clinton.

Clinton was another young, energetic liberal, pretty much the opposite of the elderly, curmudgeonly Bush.

After eight year of Clinton and his personal scandals, the country swung again to George W. Bush, a God-fearing, fundamental conservative who wouldn’t cheat on his wife. He represented Clinton’s opposite.

And after eight years of war and economic turmoil, the country swung once again to Bush’s opposite– a youthful, charismatic, black outsider.

Eight years later, the 2016 election was won by a man who is as far from Barack Obama as it gets.

Now, however you feel about the current guy, it’s safe to say that the country is probably going to wildly swing in the opposite direction in either 2020 or 2024.

Last night the world got a sneak peak at what that might look like– Congressman Joe Kennedy III, the 37-year old grandnephew of John F. Kennedy.

The young Congressman clearly represents Trump’s opposite and seems to embody so many of the gargantuan social movements that are coming to a head– the Dreamers, #metoo, BlackLivesMatter, etc.

Now, I typically hate talking about something as trite as politics and elections; elections merely change the players. It’s the game that’s rotten.

But in the Congressman’s rebuttal last night after the State of the Union address, he said something that I found quite alarming, almost inconceivable.

He lamented that the government has turned America into a “zero-sum game” where benefits received by one group must come at the expense of another– fund health insurance by cutting funding for education; build new highways by slashing teachers’ pensions.

He cited a number of examples, and then told his audience, “We choose both!”

Given the thunderous applause at that remark, everyone seemed to agree that the wealthiest, most prosperous nation in the world should never have to make a single tough financial decision.

Americans should have everything they want. And somehow, the money to pay for it all will just magically appear.

I found this astonishingly naive. He should have said, “We choose debt!” Because that’s the only way they’ll be able to pay for any of it.

Bear in mind the US government is already nearly $21 trillion in the hole and spending hundreds of billions of dollars each year just to pay interest on the debt.

In Fiscal Year 2017, in fact, the Treasury Department reports that interest payments on the debt hit a new high of $458,542,287,311.80.

That’s about 15% of federal government tax revenue… just to pay interest.

On top of that, the government spent another $2.15 trillion on Social Security and Medicare, and $720+ billion on defense spending.

So– just between interest, Social Security, Medicare, and Defense, they spent $3.3 trillion.

Total tax revenue was only $3 trillion to begin with.

So before they paid for ANYTHING else… National Parks, Homeland Security, infrastructure, foreign aid, or even paid the electric bill at the White House, they were hundreds of billions of dollars in the hole.

On top of that, the federal government has entire trust funds that are completely insolvent.

Both the Federal Highway Fund and the Disability Insurance fund, for example, have been bailed out within the last two years.

And there are several more, from the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation to Social Security itself.

This amounts to literally tens of trillions of dollars in liabilities; according to the Treasury Department’s own estimates from Fiscal Year 2016, its long-term liabilities amount to $46.7 trillion.

I find it simply extraordinary how few people in power seem to have a grasp on the magnitude of these long-term challenges.

Instead, the solution is to give everything to everyone without ever having to make a single responsible financial decision.

It’s total lunacy, a new form of American socialism that will be the final nail in the fiscal coffin.

And if history is any indicator, it’s coming… possibly as early as 2020.

Source
 debt
Adam Robertson
  
I predict that Kamala Harrison will have a good shot at the presidency if she can be loud enough to be heard over the cacaphony.

...but yes, massive debt and carrying on as if it is no problem seems to be our modus operandi here in the U.S.
Marshall Sutherland
  
Yes, But at What Cost?

Image/photo

The status quo delights in celebrating gains, but the costs required to generate those gains are ignored for one simple reason: the costs exceed the gains by a wide margin. As long as the costs can be hidden, diluted, minimized and rationalized, then phantom gains can be presented as real.
 debt
Marshall Sutherland
  
Meet the new debt ceiling: $20.493 trillion
(Same as the old debt ceiling + half a trillion)

The federal government is bumping up against a new borrowing limit, one that was imposed at the end of Friday.

The debt ceiling was suspended for about three months in September, which allowed the federal government to borrow as much money as it needed during that period. The government borrowed more than $500 billion in the last few months when the ceiling was suspended.

But after Friday, the debt ceiling took effect once more. The new limit is $20.493 trillion, which a government website said on Monday was the total amount of accrued debt as of Friday.

Now, the total national debt will sit at or around $20.493 trillion until Congress agrees to increase or suspend the ceiling again.
 debt
Marshall Sutherland
  
U.S. Treasury expects to borrow $275 billion in fourth quarter

The U.S. Treasury said on Monday it expects to borrow much less in the last three months of the year than previously announced as it approaches a statutory limit on federal debt.

Well, golly, they only intend to put every man, woman and child in the USA in debt by an additional $843 this quarter and $1570 next quarter. But, it must be OK since it is less that they had planned!


Image/photo
 debt
Marshall Sutherland
  
Sovereign ManSovereign Man wrote the following post Mon, 30 Oct 2017 11:02:22 -0400
The US government quietly added $200+ billion to the debt this month alone.
The US government quietly added $200+ billion to the debt this month alone.

There’s been something happening this month that very few people have noticed.

It’s been lost beneath all the other headline-dominating news, from the Las Vegas shooting to Harvey Weinstein to the Mueller investigation.

But very quietly behind the scenes there’s been an extremely rapid uptick in the US national debt.

In the month of October alone, the US national debt has soared by nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars.

This is pretty astonishing given that October is supposed to be a ‘good’ month for the US Treasury Department; the tax extension deadline means that October is usually quite strong for federal tax receipts.

And it has been– taxpayers have written checks totaling $190 billion to Uncle Sam so far this month.

Yet despite being flush with tax revenue, the US government still managed to pile almost a quarter of a trillion dollars more on top of its already enormous mountain of debt.

It’s always surprising to me how a story this monumental never receives any coverage.

The government of the largest, most important economy in the world is completely, woefully bankrupt. And its rate of decline is accelerating.

You’d think this would be on the front page of every major newspaper in the world.

But it’s not. It’s shrugged off as par for the course, as if accumulating historic levels of debt is somehow consequence-free.

And this complacency is what I find the MOST bizarre.

Consider the following: the US government spends nearly the ENTIRETY of its tax revenue simply on Social Security, Medicare, and Interest on the Debt.

Throw in national defense spending and the budget deficit is already hundreds of billions of dollars.

And that’s before they pay for anything else within the federal government: The Internal Revenue Service. National Parks. Highways. The guys who graze your genitals with the backs of their hands at the airport.

Congress could literally cut almost everything we think of as ‘government’ and they’d still lose hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

Oh, and raising taxes doesn’t solve this problem.

Over the past eight decades since the end of World War II, tax rates in the United States have been all over the board.

The highest marginal tax rate on individual income has been as high as 92% (in 1952-1953) and as low as 28% (1988-1990).

The corporate tax rate has gyrated between 53% and 34%. Capital gains rates have been as high as 35% and as low as 15%.

Yet throughout it all, overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP has barely budged.

This is how governments measure tax revenue– as a percentage of the overall economy. It’s like measuring how big a slice of the economic pie ends up in the government’s pocket.

And that figure has barely budged for decades.

The US government’s tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is almost invariably around 17%, i.e. roughly 17% of all US economic value is paid to the federal government as tax revenue.

It doesn’t matter how high (or low) tax rates are set. Tax REVENUE stays the same.

So even if they jack up tax rates back to 90%, IT STILL DOESN’T SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

This is a cost problem; the government simply spends too much money on programs it cannot afford.

The only realistic way out is for the US government to eventually capitulate… and default.

This could mean selectively defaulting on holders of US debt (for example– the Chinese, Japanese, Federal Reserve, Social Security Trust Funds, etc.); one day Uncle Sam simply stops paying.

Or it could mean defaulting on promises made to citizens, like providing a strong national defense, maintaining a stable currency, or paying out Social Security benefits as advertised.

Each of these scenarios has its own particular consequences, ranging from steep inflation to a full-blown global financial crisis.

Bottom line, there is no rosy scenario here.

That’s not to say that any of this is going to happen tomorrow. Far from it. These consequences are years in the making.

But it’s imperative to start doing something about it now.

Social Security is a great example.

As we’ve discussed before, the program is already running out of money.

The Social Security Board of Trustees (which includes the US Treasury Secretary), estimates that its key trust funds will be depleted in 2034, at which point the program will be fully dependent on government tax revenue to pay monthly benefits.

Now, 2034 isn’t exactly around the corner.

But if this debt trajectory continues on its current path, by 2034 the US government will have to spend the bulk of its tax revenue paying interest.

With the Social Security Trust Fund depleted and government tax revenue consumed by interest payments, it’s hard to imagine anyone receiving their full benefits.

This isn’t a problem you want to wait 17 years to acknowledge.

If Social Security ever does dry up, you won’t be able to conjure a monthly pension out of thin air.

That’s why the time to start creating your Plan B is now: it takes time to build up retirement savings.

And even if some miracle were to occur– the national debt declines, Social Security is recapitalized, etc.– you won’t be worse off having an independent source of wealth that doesn’t depend on the government.

Source
 debt
Marshall Sutherland
  


10 Myths About Government Debt
by Learn Liberty on YouTube

Myth 1 is that the government owes “only” $20 trillion. (In reality, it’s much more.) But luckily, Myth 10 is that there’s no way to fix this problem…
 debt
Marshall Sutherland
  
Sovereign ManSovereign Man wrote the following post Wed, 11 Oct 2017 10:13:21 -0400
This is the craziest mortgage scheme I’ve ever seen
This is the craziest mortgage scheme I’ve ever seen

The Great Financial Crisis happened because Wall Street was financing homes for people who couldn’t afford them.

Leading up to the GFC, there was a voracious appetite from investors for “AAA”-rated mortgage debt. So lenders would make lots of loans to subprime borrowers and sell them to Wall Street. Wall Street would pool them together and one of the major ratings agencies (like Moody’s or Standard & Poor’s) would stamp the steaming pile of garbage with AAA.

AAA by Moody’s definition means the investment “should survive the equivalent of the U.S. Great Depression.” In other words, it’s rock solid.

The reasoning was that one subprime mortgage was risky. But if you bundled thousands together, you get AAA… Because they couldn’t all go bad at once. And, hey, you can’t lose money in real estate.

The rating agencies weren’t as dumb as they appeared, though… Investigations following the crisis showed lots of incriminating emails, like this one from a Standard & Poor’s exec:
“Lord help our fucking scam . . . this has to be the stupidest place I have worked at.”

Like everyone else, they played along because they wanted to make money.

To generate enough mortgages to meet demand, lenders would do anything…

–    Sell a house for no money down

–    Offer a teaser rate (which temporarily reduces monthly payments, then jumps to market rates)

–    And even offer to pay part of your mortgage for a couple months (most small lenders could sell a loan to Wall Street in a month or two, erasing their liability. If the origination payment was more than cash out of pocket, they still came out ahead).

They called the worst of the subprime loans “NINJAs” as in “No income, No job, No assets.”

When they couldn’t actually write enough mortgages to meet demand, Wall Street got creative. They started bundling together bundles of mortgages, something called a CDO-Squared. Then they created synthetic CDOs, which were just derivatives of subprime mortgages and even other CDOs (essentially a
way for people to gamble on the mortgage market without actual mortgages).

As we all know, it ended in disaster… because the people who took out the mortgages they couldn’t afford to buy overpriced homes stopped paying. And the CDOs, CDOs-squared and synthetic CDOs (which had been spread around the world) went bust.

Remember, it all started with selling people homes they couldn’t afford. Which brings me to today…

There’s a record high $1.4 trillion of student debt in the US. And millennials are struggling to pay off those balances.

The National Association of Realtors polled 2,000 millennials between the ages of 22-35 about student debt and homeownership… Only 20% of those surveyed owned a home… Of the 8 in 10 that didn’t own, 83% of them said student debt was the reason. And 84% said they’d have to delay a home purchase for years (seven years being the median response).

And that’s all bad for the home-selling business. Once again, the lenders are getting creative…

Miami-based homebuilder, Lennar Homes, recently announced it would pay a big chunk of a student loan for any borrower buying a home from them.

Through its subsidiary Eagle Home Mortgage, the company will make a payment to a buyer’s student loans of as much as 3% of the purchase price, up to $13,000.

Debt has become such a keystone of our society, that the only way we can afford something is to swap one type of debt they can’t afford with another type of debt.

A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trust showed 41% of US households have less than $2,000 in savings – a full one-third have zero savings (including 1 in 10 families with over $100,000 in income). Another study showed 70% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.

The point is, America is broke… A single, surprise expense like a flat tire or a doctor’s visit would wipe most people out.

And it’s only getting worse.

Back in August, I calculated the average household account at Bank of America (which has $592 billion in consumer deposits from 46 million households)… It’s only $12,870 per household… And that includes savings, investments, retirement… EVERYTHING.

Also keep in mind, that’s the average… So accountholders with huge balances skew the numbers higher.

It’s no wonder Americans have $1.021 trillion in credit card debt – the most in history.

Auto loans are also at a record high $1.2 trillion.

And let’s not forget the US government, which is in the hole more than $20 trillion. The US’ debt is now 104% of GDP… And total debt has grown 48% since 2010.

The liability side of the balance sheet keeps expanding. Meanwhile assets and productivity aren’t keeping up.

But people continue buying homes, cars, TVs and college educations by taking on more and more debt… And now, by swapping one type of debt for another.

Wealth is built on savings and production. Not on playing tricks with paper and going deeper into debt.

I can’t tell when this house of cards falls. But rest assured, it will come tumbling down.

Will you be ready when it does?

Source
 debt
Marshall Sutherland
  
Sovereign ManSovereign Man wrote the following post Fri, 06 Oct 2017 10:37:29 -0400
The US government lost nearly $1 trillion in FY2017. Again
The US government lost nearly $1 trillion in FY2017. Again

There was a time, centuries ago, that France was the dominant superpower in the world.

They had it all. Overseas colonies. An enormous military. Social welfare programs like public hospitals and beautiful monuments.

Most of it was financed by debt.

France, like most superpowers before (and after), felt entitled to overspend as much as they wanted.

And their debts started to grow. And grow.

By the eve of the French revolution in 1788, the national debt of France was so large that the government had to spend 50% of tax revenue just to pay interest to its lenders.

Yet despite being in such dire financial straits the French government was still unable to cut spending.

All of France’s generous social welfare programs, plus its expansive military, were all considered untouchable.

So the spending continued. In 1788, in fact, the French government overspent its tax revenue by 20%, increasing the debt even more.

Unsurprisingly revolution came the very next year.

There are presently a handful of countries in the world today in similar financial condition– places like Greece, which are so bankrupt they cannot even afford to pay for basic public services.

But the country that has the most unsustainable public finances, by far, is the United States.

The US government’s ‘Fiscal Year’ runs from October 1st through September 30th. So FY2017 just ended last Friday.

During that period, according to the Department of Treasury’s financial statements, the US government took in $2.95 trillion in federal tax deposits.

And on top of that, the government generated additional revenue through fees and ‘investments’, including $62 billion in interest received on student loans, and $16 billion from Department of Justice programs like Civil Asset Forfeiture (where they simply steal property from private citizens).

So in total, government revenue exceeded $3 trillion.

That sounds like an enormous amount of money. And it is. That’s more than the combined GDPs of the poorest 130 countries in the world.

But the US government managed to spend WAY more than that– the budget for the last fiscal year was $4.1 trillion.

So to make up the shortfall they added $671 billion to the national debt– and this number would have been even larger had it not been for the debt ceiling fiasco.

Plus they whittled down their cash balance by $194 billion.

So in total, the federal government’s cash deficit was $865 billion for the last fiscal year.

And, again, that number would have been even worse if not for the debt ceiling that legally froze the national debt in place.

That’s astounding.

Just like in 2016 (where the cash deficit was $1 trillion), this past fiscal year saw no major recession. No full-scale war. No financial crisis or bank bailout.

It was just another year… business as usual.

And yet they still managed to overspend by nearly $1 trillion, with costs exceeding revenue by more than 20% (just like the French in 1788).

What’s going to happen to these numbers when there actually is a major war to fund? Or major recession? Banking crisis?

More importantly, they’ve been overspending like this for decades without any regard for the long-term consequences.

That’s why the national debt exceeds $20 trillion today. And including its pension shortfalls, the government estimates its total ‘net worth’ to be NEGATIVE $65 trillion.

Thousands of people are joining the ranks of Social Security and Medicare recipients each day, pushing up the costs of those programs even more.

Yet their Boards of Trustees warn that both Social Security and Medicare are quickly running out of money, raising the specter of a major bailout.

Plus there’s trillions of dollars more in needed spending to maintain the nation’s infrastructure. The list of long-term expenses goes on and on.

The obvious truth is that none of this is sustainable.

From the Roman Empire to the French in 1788, history tells us that the world’s dominant superpower almost invariably spends itself into decline, ignoring the consequences along the way.

It would be foolish to presume that this time will end up any different… especially given that there’s zero sign of any changes to the trajectory.

Congress has already put forward a new spending bill for this Fiscal Year– another 4+ trillion, not including any emergency spending that might arise (like hurricane relief, for example).

So we’re already looking at another nearly $1 trillion loss for the coming fiscal year, especially given that there’s almost no growth to tax revenue.

Don’t take this the wrong way– the sky is definitely not falling. The world isn’t coming to an end. And the US isn’t going to descend into financial chaos tomorrow morning.

But at a certain point, a rational person has to take note of such obvious and overwhelming data, and take some basic steps to reduce your exposure to the consequences.

For example, if your country is objectively insolvent, it probably doesn’t make sense to keep 100% of your assets and savings within its jurisdiction…

… especially if your government has a proud history of Civil Asset Forfeiture, AND you happen to be living in the most litigious society that has ever existed in the history of the world.

It’s easy (and incredibly cost effective) to move a portion of your savings to a safe, stable jurisdiction overseas that’s out of harm’s way.

Or to hold physical gold and silver in a safety deposit box overseas. Or even cryptocurrency as an alternative.

This isn’t some crazy idea for tin-foil hat-wearing doomsayers.

Rational, reasonable, normal have a Plan B.

And in light of the circumstances and all the data, it would be truly bizarre to NOT have one.

Source
 debt
Marshall Sutherland
  


Our Amazing Debt (Cosmos Parody)
by ReasonTV on YouTube

The math behind the National Debt is so complex that Reason TV decided to lean on "Cosmos" to explain it.
 debt
Marshall Sutherland
  
Sovereign ManSovereign Man wrote the following post Tue, 12 Sep 2017 10:34:06 -0400
The real story behind America’s new $20 trillion debt
The real story behind America’s new $20 trillion debt

Late yesterday afternoon the federal government of the United States announced that the national debt had finally breached the inevitable $20 trillion mark.

This was a long time coming. It should have happened back in March, except that a new debt ceiling was put in place, freezing the national debt.

For the last six months it was essentially illegal for the government to increase the debt.

This is pretty brutal for Uncle Sam. The US government hasn’t run a budget surplus in two decades; they depend on debt in order to keep everything running.

And without the ability to ‘officially’ borrow money, they’ve basically spent the last six months ‘unofficially’ borrowing money by plundering federal pension funds and resorting to what the Treasury Department itself calls “extraordinary measures” to keep the government running.

Late last week the debt ceiling crisis came to a temporary armistice as the government agreed once again to temporarily suspend the debt limit.

Overnight, the national debt soared hundreds of billions of dollars as months of ‘unofficial’ borrowing made its way on to the official books.

The national debt is now $20.1 trillion. That’s larger than the size of the entire US economy.

You’d think this would be front page news with warnings being shouted from the rooftops of America.

Yet curiously the story has scarcely been covered.

Today’s front page of the New York Times tells us about Hurricane Irma, North Korea, and alcoholism in Iran.

Even the Wall Street Journal’s front page has zero mention of this story.

In fairness, the number itself is irrelevant. $20 trillion is merely a big, round, psychologically significant number… but in reality no more important than $19.999 trillion.

The real story isn’t the number or the size of the debt itself. It’s the trend. And it’s not good.

Year after year after year, the US government spends far more money than it collects in tax revenue.

According to the Treasury Department’s own figures, the government’s budget deficit for the first 10 months of this fiscal year (i.e. October 2016 through July 2017) was $566 billion.

That’s larger than the entire GDP of Argentina.

Since the government has to borrow the difference, all of this overspending ultimately translates into a higher national debt.

Make no mistake, debt is an absolute killer.

History is full of examples of once-dominant civilizations crumbling under the weight of their rapidly-expanding debt, from the Ottoman Empire to the French monarchy in the 1700s.

Or as former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers used to quip, “How long can the world’s biggest borrower remain the world’s biggest power?”

It’s hard to project strength around the world when you constantly have to borrow money from the Chinese… or have your central bank conjure paper money out of thin air.

And yet tackling the debt has become nearly an impossibility.

Just look at the top four line items in the US government’s budget: Social Security, Medicare, Military, and, sadly, interest on the debt.

Those four line items alone account for nearly NINETY PERCENT of all US government spending.

Cutting Social Security or Medicare entitlements is political suicide.

Not top mention, both of those programs are actually EXPANDING as 10,000 Baby Boomers join the ranks of Social Security recipients every single day.

Then there’s military spending, which hardly seems likely to fall significantly in an age of constant threats and warfare.

The current White House proposal, in fact, is a 10% increase in military spending for the next fiscal year.

And last there’s interest on the debt, which absolutely cannot be cut without risking the most severe global financial meltdown ever seen in modern history.

So that’s basically 90% of the federal budget that’s here to stay… meaning there’s almost no chance they’re going to be able to reduce the debt by cutting spending.

But perhaps it’s possible they can slash the national debt by growing tax revenue?

Possible. But unlikely.

Since the end of World War II, the US governments’ overall tax revenue has been VERY steady at roughly 17% of GDP.

You could think of this as the federal government’s ‘slice’ of the economic pie.

Tax rates go up and down. Presidents come and go. But the government’s slice of the pie almost always remains the same 17% of GDP, with very small variations.

With data this strong, it seems rather obvious that the solution is to allow the economy to grow unrestrained.

If the economy grows rapidly, tax revenue will increase. And the national debt, at least as a percentage of GDP, will start to fall.

Here’s the problem: the national debt is growing MUCH faster than the US economy. In Fiscal Year 2016, for example, the debt grew by 7.84%.

Yet even when including the ‘benefits’ of inflation, the US economy only grew by 2.4% over the same period.

In other words, the debt is growing over THREE TIMES FASTER than the economy. This is the opposite of what needs to be happening.

What’s even more disturbing is that this pedestrian economic growth is happening at a time of record low interest rates.

Economists tell us that low interest rates are supposed to jumpstart GDP growth. But that’s not happening.

If GDP growth is this low now, what will happen if they continue to raise rates?

(And by the way, raising interest rates also has the side effect of increasing the government’s interest expense, essentially accelerating the debt problem.)

Look– It’s great to be optimistic and hope for the best. But this problem isn’t going away, and it would be ludicrous to continue believing this massive debt is consequence-free.

There’s no reason to panic or be alarmist.

But it’s clearly time for rational people to consider this obvious data… and start thinking about a Plan B.

Source
 debt
Marshall Sutherland
  
Sovereign ManSovereign Man wrote the following post Fri, 11 Aug 2017 14:09:53 -0400
Social Security requires a bailout that’s 60x greater than the 2008 emergency bank bailout
Social Security requires a bailout that’s 60x greater than the 2008 emergency bank bailout

A few weeks ago the Board of Trustees of Social Security sent a formal letter to the United States Senate and House of Representatives to issue a dire warning: Social Security is running out of money.

Given that tens of millions of Americans depend on this public pension program as their sole source of retirement income, you’d think this would have been front page news…

… and that every newspaper in the country would have reprinted this ominous projection out of a basic journalistic duty to keep the public informed about an issue that will affect nearly everyone.

But that didn’t happen.

The story was hardly picked up.

It’s astonishing how little attention this issue receives considering it will end up being one of the biggest financial crises in US history.

That’s not hyperbole either– the numbers are very clear.

The US government itself calculates that the long-term Social Security shortfall exceeds $46 TRILLION.

In other words, in order to be able to pay the benefits they’ve promised, Social Security needs a $46 trillion bailout.

Fat chance.

That amount is over TWICE the national debt, and nearly THREE times the size of the entire US economy.

Moreover, it’s nearly SIXTY times the size of the bailout that the banking system received back in 2008.

So this is a pretty big deal.

More importantly, even though the Social Security Trustees acknowledge that the fund is running out of money, their projections are still wildly optimistic.

In order to build their long-term financial models, Social Security’s administrators have to make certain assumptions about the future.

What will interest rates be in the future?
What will the population growth rate be?
How high (or low) will inflation be?

These variables can dramatically impact the outcome for Social Security.

For example, Social Security assumes that productivity growth in the US economy will average between 1.7% and 2% per year.

This is an important assumption: the higher US productivity growth, the faster the economy will grow. And this ultimately means more tax revenue (and more income) for the program.

But -actual- US productivity growth is WAY below their assumption.

Over the past ten years productivity growth has been about 25% below their expectations.

And in 2016 US productivity growth was actually NEGATIVE.

Here’s another one: Social Security is hoping for a fertility rate in the US of 2.2 children per woman.

This is important, because a higher population growth means more people entering the work force and paying in to the Social Security system.

But the actual fertility rate is nearly 20% lower than what they project.

And if course, the most important assumption for Social Security is interest rates.

100% of Social Security’s investment income is from their ownership of US government bonds.

So if interest rates are high, the program makes more money. If interest rates are low, the program doesn’t make money.

Where are interest rates now? Very low.

In fact, interest rates are still near the lowest levels they’ve been in US history.

Social Security hopes that ‘real’ interest rates, i.e. inflation-adjusted interest rates, will be at least 3.2%.

This means that they need interest rates to be 3.2% ABOVE the rate of inflation.

This is where their projections are WAY OFF… because real interest rates in the US are actually negative.

The 12-month US government bond currently yields 1.2%. Yet the official inflation rate in the Land of the Free is 1.7%.

In other words, the interest rate is LOWER than inflation, i.e. the ‘real’ interest rate is MINUS 0.5%.

Social Security is depending on +3.2%.

So their assumptions are totally wrong.

And it’s not just Social Security either.

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston Collage, US public pension funds at the state and local level are also underfunded by an average of 67.9%.

Additionally, most pension funds target an investment return of between 7.5% to 8% in order to stay solvent.

Yet in 2015 the average pension fund’s investment return was just 3.2%. And last year a pitiful 0.6%.

This is a nationwide problem. Social Security is running out of money. State and local pension funds are running out of money.

And even still their assumptions are wildly optimistic. So the problem is much worse than their already dismal forecasts.

Understandably everyone is preoccupied right now with whether or not World War III breaks out in Guam.

(I would respectfully admit that this is one of those times I am grateful to be living on a farm in the southern hemisphere.)

But long-term, these pension shortfalls are truly going to create an epic financial and social crisis.

It’s a ticking time bomb, and one with so much certainty that we can practically circle a date on a calendar for when it will hit.

There are solutions.

Waiting on politicians to fix the problem is not one of them.

The government does not have a spare $45 trillion lying around to re-fund Social Security.

So anyone who expects to retire with comfort and dignity is going to have to take matters into their own hands and start saving now.

Consider options like SEP IRAs and 401(k) plans that have MUCH higher contribution limits, as well as self-directed structures which give you greater influence over how your retirement savings are invested.

These flexible structures also allow investments in alternative asset classes like private equity, cashflowing royalties, secured lending, cryptocurrency, etc.

Education is also critical.

Learning how to be a better investor can increase your investment returns and (most importantly) reduce losses.

And increasing the long-term average investment return of your IRA or 401(k) by just 1% per year can have a PROFOUND (six figure) impact on your retirement.

These solutions make sense: there is ZERO downside in saving more money for retirement.

But it’s critical to start now. A little bit of effort and planning right now will pay enormous dividends in the future.

Source
 debt
Marshall Sutherland
  
Peak ProsperityPeak Prosperity wrote the following post Fri, 09 Jun 2017 19:38:12 -0400
Why The Markets Are Overdue For A Gigantic Bust
Why The Markets Are Overdue For A Gigantic Bust

Image/photo

As much as I try, I simply cannot jump on the bandwagon that says that printing up money out of thin air has any long-term utility for an economy.

It's just too clear to me that doing so presents plenty of dangers, due what we might call 'economic gravity': What goes up, must also come down.
Marshall Sutherland
  
Peak ProsperityPeak Prosperity wrote the following post Fri, 02 Jun 2017 18:27:13 -0400
Less Than Zero: How The Fed Killed Saving
Less Than Zero: How The Fed Killed Saving

Image/photo

Savings accounts were created to provide an incentive for people to plan for the future. Put money away today, let it grow through the miracle of compounding interest, and have more tomorrow.

Prudent savings is essential to a healthy economy. It offers resilience during downturns, and provides seed capital for productive enterprise.

But we are no longer a nation of savers. The Federal Reserve has killed the incentive to be one.
Marshall Sutherland
  
Sovereign ManSovereign Man wrote the following post Fri, 26 May 2017 11:23:31 -0400
… and now for the bad news
… and now for the bad news

In the late 1760s and early 1770s, the government of France was in a deep panic.

They had recently suffered a disastrous and costly defeat in the Seven Years War, and the national budget was a complete mess.

France had spent most of the previous century as the world’s dominant superpower, and the government budget reflected that status.

From public hospitals to shiny monuments and museums, social programs and public works projects, overseas colonies and a huge military, France had created an enormous cost structure for itself.

Eventually the costs of maintaining the empire vastly exceeded their tax revenue.

And by the late 1760s, France hadn’t had a balanced budget in decades.

Debt was ballooning, interest payments were rising, and the government of Louis XV was desperate to do something about it.

There’s a famous story in which the Comptroller-General of Finances summoned all the government ministers to make deep budget cuts.

But no one could come up with anything substantial.

The overseas colonies were too important to cut.

And they couldn’t cut public hospitals… because too many people were now relying on them. Similarly they couldn’t cut veteran pensions either.

At the end of the session they could hardly find anything to cut that would make a meaningful difference.

All of their fancy programs and benefits had become too ingrained in society at that point; and any cut would have proven politically disastrous.

I thought of this story earlier this week when the US government released a sweeping budget proposal that aims to cut the deficit over the next ten years.

In fairness I’m always happy to see any government cutting spending.

But before uncorking the champagne bottles it’s important to understand some basic realities:

The budget slashes $3.6 trillion in spending through 2028 while proposing zero cuts to Defense, Social Security, and Medicare.

And that’s the entire point: just between those three programs, plus paying interest on the debt, the US government already spends MORE than it collects in tax revenue.

In 2016, for example, the government spent $2.87 trillion on Defense, Social Security, and Medicare, plus an additional $433 billion paying interest on the debt.

That totals over $3.3 trillion, which is more than they collected in tax revenue.

In other words, they could cut EVERYTHING ELSE in government: Homeland Security, national parks, funding for the arts, the Department of Energy. Everything.

And there would still be a budget deficit.

This is the most important thing to understand about US federal government spending: the built-in costs are so extreme that they can’t possibly make ends meet.

And the problem becomes worse each year.

Every single day, thousands of Baby Boomers join the ranks of Social Security and Medicare, which only adds to those programs’ costs.

This isn’t some black magic prediction; the Social Security office has precise data on how many people were born in 1952, 1953, 1954, etc.

So they know with a high degree of certainty how many people will be receiving benefits this year, next year, and the year after that.

The numbers just keep going up.

Point is, if they don’t cut Social Security and Medicare, nothing else in the budget really matters.

All of the cuts they’re proposing are financially trivial… it’s like showing up to the hospital with stage 3 prostate cancer and asking to get a cavity filled.

The more they delay the difficult choices, the greater the destruction becomes.

Spending will continue to exceed tax revenue, which means the debt will continue to rise (and interest payments continue to increase).

This cycle never ends.

The big, giant hope right now is that they’ll be able to engineer gravity-defying economic growth, which should theoretically increase tax revenue.

Again, this is a nice idea.

But their projections are extremely unlikely.

Looking back over the last 30-years, the average annual increase in real GDP per capita is just 1.5%.

The government’s new proposal is based on the US consistently achieving 3% growth year after year after year.

Even during the roaring 90s there were only three times in which that figure was over 3%.

So this is extremely unlikely.

But even if by some miracle the economy grows consistently by 3%, it still doesn’t address the government’s $46+ trillion problem with Social Security and Medicare.

Right now based on their own calculations, both programs are going to run out of money in a little more than a decade.

And they estimate the long-term costs of the program exceed revenue by more than $46 trillion.

(To see for yourself, refer to page 61 from the government’s own financial statements, available here. Note how the estimates get worse each year.)

Look, it’s nice to be optimistic and hope for the best. And any attempt to cut the deficit is certainly better than adding to it.

But it’s dangerous (and foolish) to presume that everything is going to work out OK just because some rosy projection says so.

The best-case scenario is that they buy themselves a little bit of time.

But the most likely result is still the same: default.

The US government has $20+ trillion in obligations to its creditors, and tens of trillions more in obligations to its citizens.

Simply put, the government has too many obligations. And their only way out is to walk away from some of them.

This means default.

Given that the US dollar and US government debt underpin the global financial system, defaulting on their creditors would likely cause a worldwide panic that would make the 2008 crisis look like an afternoon picnic.

Meanwhile, defaulting on their obligations to citizens entails deep cuts to… you guessed it… Social Security and Medicare.

The younger you are, the more you can forget about counting on these programs as you grow older.

So it’s time to start taking matters into your own hands and thinking through your own Plan B.

Source
 debt
Maria Karlsen
  last edited: Sat, 27 May 2017 03:49:56 -0400  
Hm. Tax income is probably not a fixed number. If population grows, not only costs but also tax incomes should increase with it...right? If the population growth mostly consists of children, the tax income increase will be delayed with maybe 25 years, but on the other end of the scale - if the population growth is mostly caused by immigration of grown up work capable people, the tax income from those will come much faster.
Alexandre Hannud Abdo
  last edited: Sat, 27 May 2017 05:34:47 -0400  
One would assume they consider people entering and leaving the system. Population growth is kinda stagnating these days. Immigration is perhaps a very small fraction of the population (unless you are Lebanon or Jordan).

Yet, there is the Defense thing, there are Tax Heavens, and there are very rich business (oil, finance) who pay few taxes. Saying the only way out is to cut social support is quite dubious, specially since having a healthy population powers economic growth.

And even another alternative is to invest in education. Education is a strong promoter of healthier life and less visits to hospitals and less medicine spending.  And it improves the economy.
Marshall Sutherland
  
Keep in mind that the Y axis of that graph is "share of economy" (presumably % of GDP), so the absolute numbers are usually going up over time even if the line if flat (and the tax revenue line is only flat because they are using a historical average of 18% to project into the future).

Personally, I think the government- (and food industry) sponsored low-fat nutritional "education" over the past 40 years is a major contributor to the obesity and diabetes epidemic which, in turn, is fueling the massive Medicare rise. But, I favor good education.

I also think this whole debt-fueled shit-show is going to collapse on itself before we get too far along that graph.
Marshall Sutherland
  
Sovereign ManSovereign Man wrote the following post Thu, 13 Apr 2017 11:47:12 -0400
A polite history of government “predictions”
A polite history of government “predictions”

Recently the Congressional Budget Office published a scathing report that the US government debt-to-GDP ratio will double over the next 30-years.

Few government agencies are as blunt as the Congressional Budget Office.

In fact the agency’s report plainly states that “the prospect of such large and growing debt poses substantial risks for the nation. . .”

Echoing this sentiment, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office called the US debt:
“a serial horror story in which the greatest economic power ever to grace the globe sails directly into self-inflicted crisis, suffering and decline.”

Debt matters.

Nearly every major superpower over the last thousand years, from the French Bourbon monarchy to the Ottoman Empire, was eventually crushed under the weight of its debt.

The CBO has been sounding the alarm bells for years warning successive administrations that there will be serious, serious consequences in the future.

The irony is that the CBO is probably being overly optimistic.

I pulled some of their older projections from several years ago, and while they nailed the trend, they totally underestimated how severe the debt crisis would be.

In January 2007, for example, the CBO issued its annual budget and economic outlook in which they made 10-year projections about the national debt.

So, 10 years ago, the CBO estimated that by 2017, the “debt held by the public” would be $4.2 trillion, which they estimated would be 24.6% of GDP.

(Note that the CBO tends to focus on “debt held by the public”, but this number is only a portion of the total national debt.)

Now it really is 2017.

So how much is the actual debt held by the public today?

$14.35 trillion, or 76.5% of GDP… more than three times what the CBO projected back in 2007.

(Bear in mind that TOTAL government debt in the US is $20 trillion, around 106% of GDP.)

In other words, the CBO’s projection was wrong by $10 TRILLION.

That’s not to take anything away from the CBO; as the old saying goes, predictions are hard, especially about the future.

The agency is clearly doing its best to objectively highlight the obvious (and dangerous) trend of rising debt levels in the Land of the Free.

Their math just happens to be off by an order of magnitude.

It’s not just the CBO either.

As I frequently write to you, each year the Board of Trustees of the various Social Security trust funds releases a report detailing the dismal finances of that program.

In the Trustees’ 2005 report, for example, they projected that the trust funds would be “fully depleted,” i.e. completely run out of money, in the year 2043, nearly four decades later.

Eh, who really cared… 40 years was such a long time away.

The next year in the 2006 report, however, their estimated year of depletion changed to 2040… 34 years in the future.

By 2010, it had changed again to 2037… 27 years into the future.

And from last year’s 2016 report, the estimate changed yet again to 2034, just 18 years into the future.

Notice the trend? In a little more than a decade, the Trustees’ estimated date when the trust funds would be fully depleted has accelerated by 9 years.

In other words, the closer we get to the date, the more accurate their calculations become, and the faster they believe the trust funds will go bust.

Again, it’s hard to fault the trustees.

They have the right message: Social Security is going broke. They just happen to have been too optimistic in their timing.

It mystifies me how this is not front-page news on a daily basis.

I mean, the implications are enormous; the people who run the Social Security program are saying, flat out, that they’re running out of money and the program will have to curtail benefits.

And the guys within the government who watch over the budget are shouting from the rooftops that the national debt poses substantial risks.”

I imagine most people would probably agree that this stuff matters.

It just doesn’t matter to them today. Or tomorrow. Or next year.

It’s easy to put off obvious and dangerous consequences that won’t strike until several years into the future.

Such short-term thinking is in our nature as human beings.

It’s why we eat garbage foods that poison our bodies… because the life-threatening diabetes and heart disease won’t hit us for another couple of decades.

This is a dangerous gamble, especially considering that there are countless solutions to distance yourself from the impact of your government’s serial irresponsibility.

For example, there are plenty of options to establish a far more flexible, robust retirement structure like a self-directed SEP IRA or solo 401(k).

These plans allow you to save more money for retirement, cut your administrative costs, and realize far better returns in alternative asset classes.

As an example, instead of stuffing all of your retirement savings in an overpriced stock market, your IRA or 401(k) could own a profitable private business or royalty stream that consistently pays strong, healthy cash flow month after month.

This way, when Social Security does go broke, you won’t be affected one bit.

No one else can make this a priority in your life but you.

I’ll say it again: all it takes is the right education, and the will to act.

Source
 debt
Marshall Sutherland
  
Sovereign ManSovereign Man wrote the following post Mon, 13 Mar 2017 08:23:29 -0400
The US government now has less cash than Google
The US government now has less cash than Google

In the year 1517, one of the most important innovations in financial history was invented in Amsterdam: the government bond.

It was a pretty revolutionary concept.

Governments had been borrowing money for thousands of years… quite often at the point of a sword.

Italian city-states like Venice and Florence had been famously demanding “forced loans” from their wealthy citizens for centuries.

But the Dutch figured out how to turn government loans into an “investment”.

It caught on slowly. But eventually government bonds became an extremely popular asset class.

Secondary markets developed where people who owned bonds could sell them to other investors.

Even simple coffee shops turned into financial exchanges where investors and traders would buy and sell bonds.

In time, the government realized that its creditworthiness was paramount, and the Dutch developed a reputation as being a rock-solid bet.

This practice caught on across the world. International markets developed.

English investors bought French bonds. French investors bought Dutch bonds. Dutch investors bought American bonds.

(By 1803, Dutch investors owned a full 25% of US federal debt. By comparison, the Chinese own about 5.5% of US debt today.)

Throughout it all, debt levels kept rising.

The Dutch government used government bonds to live beyond its means, borrowing money to fund everything imaginable– wars, infrastructure, and ballooning deficits.

But people kept buying the bonds, convinced that the Dutch government will never default.

Everyone was brainwashed; the mere suggestion that the Dutch government would default was tantamount to blasphemy.

It didn’t matter that the debt level was so high that by the early 1800s the Dutch government was spending 68% of tax revenue just to service the debt.

Well, in 1814 the impossible happened: the Dutch government defaulted.

And the effects were devastating.

In their excellent book The First Modern Economy, financial historians Jan De Vries and Ad Van der Woude estimate that the Dutch government default wiped out between 1/3 and 1/2 of the country’s wealth.

That, of course, is just one example.

History is full of events that people thought were impossible. And yet they happened.

Looking back, they always seem so obvious.

Duh. The Dutch were spending 68% of their tax revenue just to service the debt. Of course they were going to default.

But at the time, there was always some prevailing social influence… some wisdom from the “experts” that made otherwise rational people believe in ridiculous fantasies.

Today is no different; we have our own experts who peddle ridiculous (and dangerous) fantasies.

Case in point: this week, yet another debt ceiling debacle will unfold in the Land of the Free.

You may recall the major debt ceiling crisis in 2011; the US federal government almost shut down when the debt ceiling was nearly breached.

Then it happened again in 2013, at which point the government actually DID shut down.

Then it happened again in 2015, when Congress and President Obama agreed to temporarily suspend the debt ceiling, which at the time was $18.1 trillion.

That suspension ends this week, at which point a debt ceiling of $20.1 trillion will kick in.

There’s just one problem: the US government is already about to breach that new debt limit.

The national debt in the Land of the Free now stands at just a hair under $20 trillion.

In fact the government has been extremely careful to keep the debt below $20 trillion in anticipation of another debt ceiling fiasco.

One way they’ve done that is by burning through cash.

At the start of this calendar year in January, the federal government’s cash balance was nearly $400 billion.

On the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, the government’s cash balance was $384 billion.

Today the US government’s cash balance is just $34.0 billion.

(Google has twice as much money, with cash reserves exceeding $75 billion.)

This isn’t about Trump. Or even Obama. Or any other individual.

It’s about the inevitability that goes hand in hand with decades of bad choices that have taken place within the institution of government itself.

Public spending is now so indulgent that the government’s net loss exceeded $1 trillion in fiscal year 2016, according to the Treasury Department’s own numbers.

That’s extraordinary, especially considering that there was no major war, recession, financial crisis, or even substantial infrastructure project.

Basically, business as usual means that the government will lose $1 trillion annually.

Moreover, the national debt increased by 8.2% in fiscal year 2016 ($1.4 trillion), while the US economy expanded by just 1.6%, according to the US Department of Commerce.

Now they have plans to borrow even more money to fund multi-trillion dollar infrastructure projects.

Then there’s the multi-trillion dollar bailouts of the various Social Security and Medicare trust funds.

And none of this takes into consideration the possibility of a recession, trade war, shooting war, or any other contingency.

This isn’t a political problem. It’s an arithmetic problem. And the math just doesn’t add up.

The only question is whether the government outright defaults on its creditors, defaults on promises to its citizens, or defaults on the solemn obligation to maintain a stable currency.

But of course, just like two centuries ago with the Dutch, the mere suggestion that the US government may default is tantamount to blasphemy.

Our modern “experts” tell us that the US government will always pay and that a debt default is impossible.

Well, we’re living in a world where the “impossible” keeps happening.

So it’s hard to imagine anyone will be worse off seeking a modicum of sanity… and safety.

Do you have a Plan B?
elmussol
  
Crisis? What crisis?
Marshall Sutherland
  
Peak ProsperityPeak Prosperity wrote the following post Sat, 11 Mar 2017 00:01:54 -0500
When This All Blows Up...
When This All Blows Up...

Image/photo

This report marks the end of a series of three big trains of thought. The first explained how we’re living through the Mother Of All Financial Bubbles. The next detailed the Great Wealth Transfer that is now underway, siphoning our wealth into the pockets of an elite few.

This concluding report predicts how these deleterious and unsustainable trends will inevitably ‘resolve’ (which is a pleasant way of saying ‘blow up’.)