June 4th, 2009
The subprime mortgage crisis in just about over. Those whose loans came with usurious interest rates have, if they got behind or lost their jobs, already been foreclosed upon. Now the issue is negative equity, the fact that real estate is depreciating so fast that homes are no longer worth the price paid, even with prime interest rates. Being “upside down” and expecting a higher rate to kick in on the original price is causing more and more people to simply walk away from their mortgages.
And indeed, walking away from the debt may be the best option for people who purchased during the “bubble” of inflated valuation. Because the underlying problem the bubble was based upon – ever-increasing wages for the working classes – has dismally failed to materialize.
We’re all paying for the bubble and the ridiculous amount of side-bets that got made by financial pyramid schemers who artificially produced and inflated that bubble. When the “average” price of a below “average” home (say, 50 years old, in need of repair, in a bad neighborhood and too small for a family) rises above $120,000 in one of America’s “Officially Depressed Regions” where a majority of citizens are chronically out of work and wages hover right around minimum, you know something’s got to give. That’s how it is in my nearest county with an actual city in it – Buncombe County, NC, home to the city of Asheville (pop. less than 100,000).Bankruptcy, Debt, Economic Depression, Housing | Comment (1)
April 9th, 2009
For a great many regular hard-working, tax-paying American citizens the way money works in the modern world is very much a mystery. This is not surprising, considering that money has always been a mystery shrouded in mythical associations, psychological phobias and religious overtones. And designed to be thus by those who do know how money works. When the US Federal Reserve was established in 1913, it was not actually made a National Bank under the control of the government, it was established by and for the wealthiest bankers and Wall Street barons as an independent entity with only ceremonial ties to the federal government.
In a critique of the ancient psychological “money complex” in his book Life Against Death, Norman O. Brown explored the debt-guilt association in the essay Filthy Lucre. Brown wrote, “Whatever the ultimate explanation of guilt may be, we put forward the hypothesis that the whole money complex is rooted in the psychology of guilt.”
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that a development in late June of 2008 that rocked the American financial world went largely unreported in this country. It appeared in an article of Spiegel Online on June 26, 2008, entitled The Shrinking Influence of the US Federal Reserve.Economic Depression, Economic Recession, Government Bailouts, Inflation | Comment (0)
January 16th, 2009
…or make the best of it.
Let’s face it. The “Recession of 2008″ is now officially over, because it is January, the first month of the “Depression of 2009.” The last jobless statistics for ’08 showed more than half a million new first-time unemployment filers, which represent only those workers who qualify for unemployment. Final ‘official’ tally for ’08: 2.6 million jobs lost. These are the worst figures in 16 years, while the average hourly workweek for those underneath the supervisory level doing the real work shrank to the lowest number since the government started keeping such statistics in 1964. That, for the quick-math challenged, is 45 years ago.
Most of us who watch the economic comings and goings in this strange era of bail-outs for super-crooks and callous economic eugenics for working families also know that the ‘official’ statistics don’t come anywhere close to matching what is really going on in the real world. Young workers, seasonal workers, minimum wage workers, temp workers and millions who otherwise don’t qualify for unemployment aid or who have exhausted their eligibility are completely off the books – no one bothers to count them, even if their numbers swell the real unemployment picture to more than double the reported statistics. “Unofficial” numbers can range anywhere from 11.1 million jobless Americans to somewhere very close to 20% of our work force. No one much likes to mention that, since anything more than 10% puts us in that ‘depression’ they’d rather slit their wrists than admit to.Economic Depression, Economic Recession, Education, Joblessness, Surviving, Unemployment | Comment (0)
November 10th, 2008
The election is now over, the Neocons and their operatives at Treasury and the Fed are doing their best to loot the nation completely before power changes hands, and the citizens are collectively holding their breath, wondering just how bad it will get, thousands of jobs disappearing every week. The Grinch may well have succeeded in stealing Christmas this year – looks like we won’t have Circuit City to kick around anymore.
As the economy falls (for everyone but the oil companies, who are enjoying record profits as usual), the prices of just about everything keep going up. The most primal of our needs is food, and how we will survive the depression without sacrificing our health, our weight or our taste buds is a question many families are beginning to struggle with.Alternatives, Conscious Living, Economic Depression, Garden, Grow Your Own, Nutrition, Recipes, Staple Foods, Surviving | Comments (6)
November 3rd, 2008
We’ve seen a lot of desperation as the world (and US) economy tanks in the wake of the mortgage-loss pyramid scheme crash. We’ve heard a lot of hyperbole and rhetoric from the candidates who want to replace Bush-Cheney as President and Vice-President of the United States. This is The Week That Was, votes will be counted tomorrow night, and we should know sometime in the wee hours of Wednesday which of the contestants gets the erstwhile “prize.”
As Wall Street began its precipitous fall, Republican candidate John McCain was busy informing the nation that the ‘fundamentals’ of our economy are strong. No, they aren’t strong, they’re utter failures after years of massive tax cuts to the wealthy, heavy borrowing to support two wars, and the “Unfettered Free Market” [TM] frenzy allowed by blanket de-regulation of the banking and investment sectors.
To get an idea of just how outrageous things had gotten, consider the so-called “Mortgage Meltdown” that took so many once-staid capitalist houses into ruin. We all know that housing prices had ballooned in most urban areas of the country, a ‘bubble’ sustained by the practice of lending to workers whose incomes haven’t seen even a minimal rise in more than 30 years, for houses that cost easily twice as much as they could hope to afford and three times what they were actually worth. Many of these loans were made with specific criminal intent to skim fees off the top, and saddled with adjustable interest rates that worked just like time bombs to force people into bankruptcy.Bankruptcy, Economic Depression, Economic Recession, Education, Elitism, Government Bailouts, Housing, Income Inequality, Politics, Taxes | Comment (0)
October 7th, 2008
Food: Eating What You Can Get
World markets continue to take dramatic hits and the Dow has fallen below 10,000 for the first time in four years. Seems a lot of banks and other players are unhappy with the trillion dollar bailout package passed last Friday because it limits their personal golden parachutes and stock option scams. Awwww. Should we call the waaaaambulance for these whiners? Nope. If they didn’t need our money they shouldn’t have begged for a handout in the first place. In the meantime, regular people are having a much harder time putting food on the table as prices rise dramatically and more and more find themselves out of work. This post is a beginner’s primer on how to get food if you can’t afford it.
Before I get to the list of good links readers may find helpful depending on their particular situations, readers should know that many states, such as the one where I live (NC) have budgetary caps on how much relief in the form of food stamps they are able to provide. This can mean that even as increasing numbers of people find themselves going hungry, fewer people will have access to the standard governmental relief. Thus more people must turn to other providers. A good overview of those providers supported by the USDA commodity program is provided at Amber Waves. If your family is in danger of ‘food insecurity’ be sure to familiarize yourself with emergency providers in your area. Cities generally have soup kitchens, places where you can go for a hot meal. Most smaller cities and many towns or counties also have food banks, check into what you will need to provide to qualify.Alternative economics, Alternatives, Barter, Economic Depression, Family Projects, Foraging, Grow Your Own, Inflation, Staple Foods, Surviving, Wild Harvest | Comments (2)
September 24th, 2008
Roadblocks and Interference
As Congress meets today and tomorrow to grill the principals before Friday’s vote on the $700 billion “emergency” Wall Street bailout plan (which has been in the works for months but strategically dumped on us all as an “emergency”), oil companies have instituted “rolling shortages” all over the Southeast. Some areas have been out of gas for more than a week and a half, and the situation is not expected to ease until Monday at the latest. Some gas – a single tanker at a time – is being delivered to stations along the Interstates and is being strictly rationed unless it’s diesel, one station per county.
State police are managing the gas lines to prevent violence, which did break out last week in the Nashville, Tennessee area when people started cutting in line. Food prices are rising so fast the stock boys at the grocery stores can’t mark up the goods fast enough, and the specter of looming fuel shortages for winter heat – or price increases that will force people to do without – is beginning to look very scary.
Bailout or no bailout – and despite the launch of FBI investigations of Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, Lehman Brothers and AIG – the United States may well be fully in the clutches of major economic depression before winter even hits. Whether or not that translates to global recession isn’t much of an issue to regular people, as we here in our own homes wonder how we will survive. This post and several following posts in a new series will take a look at the steps citizens should take as soon as possible to ensure their families will make it through the next 6 months. If depression goes on longer than that, additional strategies will be necessary, some already compiled as series in this blog and available under the “Our Most Popular” header on the left side of the page.Alternative economics, Alternatives, Bank Failures, Economic Depression, Energy, Fuel, Government Bailouts, Inflation, Surviving | Comment (1)
September 22nd, 2008
Watching Treasury’s Paulson on Meet the Press Sunday made me sick. That pitiful, pleading look, the bizarre non-logic, the reversion to fear, fear, fear… the guy’s a cheap crook in an expensive suit and no, the whole world isn’t going to self-detonate if we let the greedheads take their lumps for being so damned greedy. Let ‘em fail.
Meanwhile, I’ve a fine plan to salvage the housing market as well as the business and jobs outlook. Instead of giving up to $3 trillion dollars (the price goes up hourly) to the crooks who got us into this mess, why not give every citizen $3,000 dollars? They’ll catch up on their mortgages, then FHA (the receiver for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) can refinance at lower rates and more realistic selling prices. Voila! the mortgage market is no longer “bad debt.” And if we’ve got an extra couple of trillion laying around to spend on these greedheads, why don’t we spend it on something useful – like universal health care?
That price tag is less than a third of the price tag the Fed, Treasury or Wall Street has come up with to bail themselves out of the hole they dug, and it would completely solve the asset valuation problem for regular Americans who don’t earn $5 million a year. And it lets the Wall Street failures fail. They earned it, they deserve it. Screw ‘em. The rest of us will be fine with our dividend.Alternatives, Bank Failures, Economic Depression, Government Bailouts, Housing | Comment (0)
September 8th, 2008
That’s what Angry Bear says about the government bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announced on Sunday, September 7. It will cost the American taxpayers tens of billions of dollars we don’t have. Why? Because more than 1.3 trillion dollars’ worth of those mortgage bonds are held by foreign countries, primarily China, Japan, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg and Belgium, and they want to know if their holdings are any good.
Now, you might be struck by some of those listed ‘foreigners’. Cayman Islands? Luxembourg? Belgium? Well known for hosting questionably legal accounts for some questionable characters, I suspect we’d find a lot of Americans on those lists. Americans don’t count as “foreigners.” Unfortunately, we’d also find a lot of Russian front companies and Middle Eastern Sheiks as well.
We’ve once again been robbed blind by wanton corporate and individual greed, and we are expected once again to bail out the wealthy speculators whose greed led to the failures.
Predictions for what happens now aren’t pretty. The dollar will plunge, inflation will zoom, regular Americans will have an even more difficult time keeping up. While the richest 1% will have their taxes cut and get their bad investments paid off so they can go speculate on other nifty things like food and water.
So buckle up, fellow shoestring budget enthusiasts! We’re going to get our chance to put all our alternative survival strategies to work. If we do it right, what will arise from the ashes of the late, once-great American economy might be strong enough to last awhile.
Links:Economic Depression, Government Bailouts, Housing, Income Inequality, Inflation, Surviving | Comment (0)
July 21st, 2008
As the economy continues to slide ever deeper into recession – dragging the entire civilized world along with it in one spectacular leap into the great oil scam abyss – we get the mainstream media’s too-cute economic pundits telling us things designed to make us laugh out loud. Which could actually be semi-useful, considering how many neurosciencey-type researchers keep telling us how much humor can help us conquer stress and depression and other unavoidable side-effects of living in interesting times. But only if you actually read their sage advice *as* comedy, meant to lighten your mood.
For instance, the jokers over at CNN Money have some real thigh-slappers on what we regular people should do ‘just in case’ the worst happens (the whole house of cards comes tumbling down). We need to beef up our “emergency funds,” we’re told, as if we had more cash to stash in zip lock bags in the freezer than the two to three weeks’ worth (which we’d still have to scrimp to save up) advised in the post Hold On: The Ride’s Just Starting.
We are told that in the face of bank failures, job losses and investment wipeouts that the “standard advice” is to keep at least three months’ worth of living expenses ‘socked away’ if there are two wage earners in the family, six months’ worth if there’s just one breadwinner. Surely it can’t be that difficult to just take ten or twenty thousand dollars out of your bank or investment portfolio in small bills and find a safe place in the house to hide it from the teenagers, right? Hahahaha. That’s a good one.Alternative economics, Economic Depression, Economic Prognostication, Economic Recession, Humor | Comments (3)