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But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?
I see pitchforks.
At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.
But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.
If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.
Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument; I’ve had many of you tell me to my face I’m completely bonkers. And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.
Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world. What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us.
The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.
Maria Antoinette and her cohort had no idea what was coming.
We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.
America – its government, businesses, and people – are nearly $60 trillion in debt, according to the latest economic data from the St. Louis Federal Reserve. And private debt – not government borrowing – is the biggest reason for the huge deficit.
Total US debt at the end of the first quarter of 2014, on March 31 totaled almost $59.4 trillion – up nearly $500 billion from the end of the fourth quarter of 2013, according to the data. Total debt (the combination of government, business, mortgage, and consumer debt) was $2.2 trillion 40 years ago. “In 50 short years, debt has gone from being a luxury for a few to a convenience for many to an addiction for most to a disease for all,” James Butler wrote in an Independent Voters Network (IVN) op-ed. “It is a virus that has spread to every aspect of our economy, from a consumer using a credit card to buy a $0.75 candy bar in a vending machine to a government borrowing $17 trillion to keep the lights on.”
When I was a kid my grandparents owned a mercantile (general store), gas station, motel and restaurant – Ivan’s Corners – down in LaPine. On the wall in the store was a hand-painted pine-plank sign that read, simply:
“In god we trust, all others pay cash”.
I may not have anything, but I don’t owe the banks one damned dime.
I am free. You are not.
The U.S. housing market and any economic recovery are confronting a brick wall, and no one is discussing it. Like a speeding train, the housing market and our economy are heading over a cliff with no bridge. Yet no one in Washington wants to discuss this very real and approaching danger.
Recently, Salon ran an article on the conflicting, confusing and ineffective nature of housing policy to date. The article traced the conflicting narratives and debate associated with principal reduction and the Obama Administration’s efforts in this arena.
Andrew Leonard states that there is a “nightmare scenario” in which Congress fails to extend essential legislation before it expires at the end of this year. If Congress does not act, we will almost inevitably see a further collapse in the housing market, with a ripple effect that has the potential to destroy vital consumer confidence, stop any economic recovery or even cause an economic catastrophe.
Any housing recovery is almost unquestionably dependent on the continued growth of short sales. If Congress fails to act, short sales will almost certainly return to an anemic level. We are playing fire, and the chances of serious burns are not slim.
America deserves better than silence. If there is a reasonable rationale for failing to extend this critical tax exemption, let’s have it. But, this is a clear case, where the failure to discuss our options and act rationally, could set-off a domino effect destroying everything our nation has sought to avoid over the past 5 years.
We are on a speeding train approaching a cliff with no bridge across it. Our conductors are either unaware of the danger, of for some unknown reason, want to keep the passengers calm as we sail over the precipice.
We ain’t even close to the bottom -
Homes in some stage of foreclosure accounted for more than one in four home sales during the first three months of the year, according to a report Thursday.
Distressed properties that were either in default, scheduled for auction or bank-owned accounted for 26% of all residential sales during the first quarter, up from 22% in the previous quarter and 25% a year earlier, RealtyTrac said.
Altogether, 233,299 distressed properties were purchased during the quarter, an 8% increase from the previous quarter. Those homes sold for an average of $161,214, 27% below the average price of a home not in foreclosure.
The number of Americans signing contracts to buy previously owned homes fell in April by the most in a year, indicating the U.S. housing recovery remains uneven.
We ain’t even close to the bottom yet: Home prices lowest since 2002
Home prices hit new post-bubble lows in March, according to a report out Tuesday.
Average home prices were down 2.6% from 12 months earlier, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index of 20 major markets. Home prices have not been this low since mid-2002.
If it has slipped your mind, there’s quite a bit of evidence in the public record of systematic fraud in the Rocket Scientists’ of Finance creation of the home equity bubble. Neither Obama nor the Democratic Party leadership on the Hill seem particularly concerned. So to, it appears, with our State and District Attorneys.
We’re not even close to the bottom yet. Zerohedge: In what appears to be surprising news for some, Reuters has an article titled “Americans brace for next foreclosure wave” whose key premise is that “a painful part two of the [housing] slump looks set to unfold: Many more U.S. homeowners face the prospect of losing their homes this year as banks pick up the pace of foreclosures.”
Thank the robosettlement, where in exchange for a few wrist slaps, contract law was thoroughly trampled by America’s attorneys general, but far more importantly to the country’s crony capitalist system, the foreclosure pipeline was once again unclogged, and whether one does or does not have a legal title on a given house, the banks are now fully in their right to foreclose on it. What this means also is that America’s record shadow housing inventory, which is far greater than any fabricated number the NAR reports on a monthly basis, is about to get unleashed on buyers, shifting the supply curve much further to the right, as up to 9 million new properties slowly but surely appear on the market. And while many will no longer be able to live mortgage free, forcing them to go out and rent (and no longer be able to afford incremental iGizmos), it also means that the prevalent price of homes is about to take another major tumble, making buffoons out of all those who, once again, called for a housing bottom in early 2012.
We’re not even close to the bottom. CNNMoney:
The housing market started off the new year with a thud. Home prices dropped for the fifth consecutive month in January, reaching their lowest point since the end of 2002.
The average home sold in that month lost 0.8% of its value, compared with a month earlier, and prices were down 3.8% from 12 months earlier, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index of 20 major markets.
Home prices have fallen a whopping 34.4% from the peak set in July, 2006.
We’re not even close to the bottom: Economic Recovery? What Recovery?
Reporting it doesn’t make it so. In fact, it’s more illusion than fact, but that doesn’t surprise half of US households impoverished or bordering on it, according to recent US Census data.
Nor are independent analysts and economists fooled. Last summer, economist Richard Wolff called “so-called economic ‘recovery’ since mid-2009….chiefly hype, a veneer of good news (benefitting corporations and elitists) to disguise and minimize the awful underlying economic realities.”
Since crisis conditions began in fall 2007, most people experienced pain without gain. For them, current conditions are worse, not better, with no policies proposed to help them. That’s today’s grim reality, especially across America and Europe.