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This Region Of The World Is Being Hit By The Worst Economic Collapse It Has Ever Experienced March 7, 2017

South America On The Globe - Public DomainThe ninth largest economy in the entire world is currently experiencing “its longest and deepest recession in recorded history”, and in a country right next door people are being encouraged to label their trash so that the thousands upon thousands of desperately hungry people that are digging through trash bins on the streets can find discarded food more easily.  Of course the two nations that I am talking about are Brazil and Venezuela.  The Brazilian economy was once the seventh largest on the globe, but after shrinking for eight consecutive quarters it has now fallen to ninth place.  And in Venezuela the economic collapse has gotten so bad that more than 70 percent of the population lost weight last year due to a severe lack of food.  Most of us living in the northern hemisphere don’t think that anything like this could happen to us any time soon, but the truth is that trouble signs are already starting to erupt all around us.  It is just a matter of time before the things currently happening in Brazil and Venezuela start happening here, but unfortunately most people are not heeding the warnings.

Just a few years ago, the Brazilian economy was absolutely roaring and it was being hailed as a model for the rest of the world to follow.  But now Brazil’s GDP has been imploding for two years in a row, and this downturn is being described as “the worst recession in recorded history” for that South American nation…

Latin America’s largest economy Brazil has contracted by 3.6 percent in 2016, shrinking for the second year in a row; statistics agency IBGE said on Tuesday. It confirmed the country is facing its longest and deepest recession in recorded history.

Data shows gross domestic product (GDP) fell for the eighth straight quarter in the three months to December, down 0.9 percent from the previous quarter. The figure was worse than the 0.5 percent decline economists had forecast and left the country’s overall GDP down 3.6 percent for the full year following a 3.8 percent drop in 2015.

“In real terms, GDP is now nine percent below its pre-recession peak,” Neil Shearing, chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, told the Financial Times.

“This is comfortably the worst recession in recorded history,” he added.

It had been hoped that things in Brazil would be getting better by now, but instead they just keep getting worse.

The number of bankruptcy filings has soared to an all-time record high, and the official unemployment rate has more than doubled since the end of 2013.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

In a stunning deterioration, the unemployment rate in Brazil spiked to 12.6% in the rolling three-month period through January, a record in the new data series going back to 2012, according to Brazil’s statistical agency IBGE. Up from 11.8% in the three-month period through October. Up from an already terribly high 9.5% a year ago. And more than double the 6.2% in December 2013.

Meanwhile, hordes of hungry people are rummaging through garbage cans in Venezuela in order to find something to fill their aching stomachs.

Things have gotten so bad that one of President Maduro’s chief opponents has urged citizens to label which trash bags have food in them so that people that are searching through the garbage can find food scraps more easily

Controversial Priest and opponent to President Nicolás Maduro’s administration Father Jose Palmar posted on social media this week about labeling discarded waste so those looking through it for food can do so more easily and “with dignity.”

Palmar called on Venezuelans to celebrate Lent by identifying bags where food has been discarded for those with no where else to turn. That way, they don’t have to dig through non-edible items to find it.

And previously I have written about how people are so hungry in Venezuela that some of them are actually slaughtering and eating cats, dogs, pigeons and zoo animals.

I keep telling people that this is coming to America, but a lot of people out there don’t want to believe me.

But it is most certainly coming.

Thanks to chronically empty store shelves and severe food shortages, people in Venezuela are losing weight at an astounding pace.  In the United States it would be a good thing if much of the population lost this much weight, but in Venezuela it definitely is not

Three quarters of the country’s population lost an average of over 18 pounds over food shortages in 2016, according to a survey by Venezuelan universities and nonprofit groups. Last year, over 80 percent of foodstuffs disappeared from shelves and many had to get by with one meal a day, Foreign Policy reported.

Venezuela was once South America’s most powerful petrostate. But decades of government mismanagement sent the country into decline. Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez choked the economy with heavy-handed regulations, price controls, and a campaign to nationalize major industries that chased out foreign investments.

Further north, very alarming signs are starting to pop up in Mexico.

It probably won’t happen next week or next month, but there are indications of emerging “liquidity problems” which could precipitate a major debt crisis at some point…

In Mexico foreign investors hold around $100 billion of the country’s local-currency government debt, the most for any emerging market economy. That’s almost 20 times what it was 20 years ago. They also hold billions of euros worth of corporate bonds, which are also showing signs of strain, prompting some Mexican business leaders to call for “new programs” to be implemented before the situation causes “a large-scale crisis” among Mexican companies.

The most ominous sign yet came last week when Bloomberg reported sources saying that the Bank of Mexico (or Banxico, as it is referred to) had sought a swap line from the Federal Reserve in case of “liquidity problems,” which immediately triggered furious denials from Banxico. “I can say clearly and unequivocally that we are not in the process of asking for any credit line from any authority,” said the central bank’s governor, Agustin Carstens, who has postponed by six months his departure from the bank, initially scheduled for May.

One of the biggest problems for nations such as Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico is the strength of the U.S. dollar.  During the good times they went into tremendous amounts of debt, and much of that debt was denominated in U.S. dollars.  So when the U.S. dollar becomes stronger, it takes more of their own local currencies to pay that debt back.

And if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates at their next meeting, that will strengthen the U.S. dollar even more and put even more pressure on emerging market economies.

Unfortunately, it appears that this is precisely what the Fed is going to do

Even one small interest rate increase by the Fedcould have a sweeping impact on U.S. and world economies, Komal Sri-Kumar told CNBC on Monday.

“I think they are going to hike” on March 15, Sri-Kumar said on “Squawk Box,” echoing a theory shared by many analysts. “But that is going to prompt capital outflows from the euro zone, especially with the political risk. It is going to increase the capital outflow from China, and the U.S. economy will feel the impact.”

The global economy is more interconnected than ever before, and pain that starts in one region can rapidly spread to others.

The biggest debt bubble that the world has ever seen is starting to burst, and over the coming years we are going to see financial pain on a scale that would be unimaginable to most of us at this moment.

But even now there are those that would suggest that this colossal debt bubble can continue growing much faster than global GDP indefinitely, and this sort of exceedingly reckless optimism is leading many astray.

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11 Quotes From Trump’s Speech To Congress That Show That The U.S. Economy Is In A State Of Collapse March 1, 2017

Donald Trump's Speech To A Joint Session Of Congress - Public DomainAfter Tuesday night, nobody should have any more doubt that the U.S. economy has been in the process of collapsing.  Donald Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress is being hailed as his best speech ever.  Even CNN’s Van Jones praised Trump, which shocked many observers.  Jones said that when Trump honored the widow of slain Navy Seal Ryan Owens that it “was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics”, and Jones believes that Trump “became President of the United States in that moment”.  But Trump’s speech is not just being praised for that one moment.  He detailed many of the most important problems that our nation is facing, and he explained his prescription for addressing those problems.

Hopefully Trump’s words helped people to understand that our problems did not get fixed just because he got elected.  It is going to take extraordinary action to fix those problems, because our problems run very deep.  In particular, Trump made an exceedingly strong case that the U.S. economy has been badly deteriorating for a very long period of time.  The following are 11 quotes from Trump’s speech to Congress that show that the U.S. economy is in a state of collapse…

#1 “Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force”

#2 “Over 43 million people are now living in poverty”

#3 “Over 43 million Americans are on food stamps”

#4 “More than one in five people in their prime working years are not working”

#5 “We have the worst financial recovery in 65 years”

#6 “In the last eight years, the past administration has put on more new debt than nearly all of the other Presidents combined”

#7 “We’ve lost more than one-fourth of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was approved”

#8 “We’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001″

#9 “Our trade deficit in goods with the world last year was nearly 800 billion dollars”

#10 “Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits. As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone.”

#11  “We’ve spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled”

All of these quotes come from the transcript of the speech that was posted on the official White House website.

So many of the economic themes that Trump touched on are things that I have been writing about recently.  For example, I recently published an article entitled “11 Deeply Alarming Facts About America’s Crumbling Infrastructure” in which I discussed the horrific state of our roads, bridges, ports, dams, water systems and airports.  I greatly applaud Trump for wanting to do something about this growing national crisis, but I just don’t know where the money is going to come from.

Just over a week ago I also wrote a major article about Obamacare.  We have zero hope of turning our economy in a positive direction until we do something to fix our dramatically failing healthcare system, but at the moment Republicans in Congress seem extremely hesitant to take action.  Instead, many Republican leaders are now talking about trying to “fix Obamacare“, and that simply is not going to work.

You can’t “fix” a steaming pile of garbage.

All of the other facts that Trump listed about the economy were right on point too.  I have been screaming for seven years about our nightmarish trade deficit and the fact that tens of thousands of businesses and millions of good paying jobs were leaving the country.  It is refreshing to finally have a president that understands how badly America has been hurt by imbalanced trade agreements, and my hope is that he will start to take constructive action in this regard.

So much damage to the economy has already been done, and there are all kinds of indications that we are about to officially slide into yet another recession.  Yesterday we learned that the number of “distressed retailers” in this country is the highest that it has been since the last recession, and in recent weeks major retailers across the nation have announced the closing of hundreds of stores.  Lending standards are tightening, bankruptcies are rising, and employment growth at companies listed on the S&P 500 has gone negative for the first time since the last recession.

It is being projected that GDP growth for the first quarter of 2017 will be barely above zero, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we actually had a negative reading.

If we indeed are heading into a new recession, Trump and his supporters need it to happen as soon as possible so that they can blame it on Obama.  If a recession begins a year from now, everyone will blame it on Trump even if it is not his fault.  But if a recession begins now, Trump and his supporters can pin responsibility for it on Obama and then take credit if and when a recovery occurs.

Trump’s speech on Tuesday night was very optimistic, and he seemed quite confident that every issue that we are facing as a nation can be fixed

Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing and hope.

I hope that Trump is right, but I also know that the federal government is already 20 trillion dollars in debt, U.S. consumers are already more than 12 trillion dollars in debt, and corporate debt has approximately doubled since the last financial crisis.

You can’t squeeze blood out of an apple, and you can’t get out of a debt bubble by going into a lot more debt.

I understand that there are so many people out there right now that are deeply optimistic about the future, but the truth is that we have no hope of a positive future unless we fundamentally change our ways as a nation.  I wish that someone could show me evidence that this is happening, because I would be very glad to see it.  As it stands, we continue to steamroll toward the kind of apocalyptic future for this country that I have been warning about for a very long time.

It will take a lot more than words to fix America, and I think that Donald Trump understands this.

Hopefully many of his followers will start to get the message as well.

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Here Come The Robots – And They Are Going To Take Almost All Of Our Jobs February 6, 2017

Robot Human Hand - Public DomainWhat is going to happen to society when robots are able to do just about everything better, faster and cheaper than human workers can?  We live at a time when technology is increasing at an exponential pace.  Incredible advancements in robotics, computer science and artificial intelligence are certainly making our lives more comfortable, but they are also bringing fundamental changes to the workplace.  For employers, there are a lot of advantages to replacing human workers with robots.  Robots don’t surf around on Facebook when they are supposed to be working. Robots don’t need Obamacare, lunch breaks or vacation days. Robots never steal from the company and they never complain.  Up until fairly recently, human workers could generally perform many tasks more cheaply than robots could, but now that is rapidly changing.

For example, a coffee shop has just opened up in San Francisco that is manned by a robot instead of a human…

Tired of your barista misspelling your name on your morning cup of joe? Perhaps a robot could do better. On Monday, Cafe X opened its very first robotic cafe in San Francisco’s Metreon shopping center. Promising “precision crafted specialty coffee in seconds, the way the roaster intended,” Cafe X thinks that anything a human can do, its machines can do better.

Specifically, one very special machine. Nicknamed Gordon, after a Cafe X employee, this robot mans, or robots, two standard professional coffee machines in order to serve up espressos and lattes. In the San Francisco location, customers can grab a cup of coffee with beans from AKA Coffee, Verve Coffee Roasters, or Peet’s. While the coffee itself may not make Cafe X stand out from the competition, the startup hopes that the robot’s efficiency will.

If that coffee shop demonstrates that it can be much more profitable than a coffee shop with human employees, it is just a matter of time before human baristas start to be phased out all over the nation.

A similar thing is happening in many supermarkets.  Personally, I hate the “self-checkout lines”, but you are starting to see them everywhere these days.

And according to the Sun, Amazon is playing around with a concept that would employ hardly any human workers at all…

In the case of Amazon’s automated retail prototype, a half-dozen workers could staff an average location. A manager’s duties would include signing up customers for the “Amazon Fresh” grocery service. Another worker would restock shelves, and still another two would be stationed at “drive-thru” windows for customers picking up their groceries, fast-food style.

The last pair would work upstairs, helping the robots bag groceries to be sent down to customers on “dumbwaiter”-like conveyors, a source said.

With the bare-bones payroll, the boost to profits could be huge. Indeed, the prototype being discussed calls for operating profit margins north of 20 percent. That compares with an industry average of just 1.7 percent, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

During the recent presidential campaign, much was made of the fact that we have shipped millions of good paying jobs overseas over the past several decades.

We can certainly try to make some laws that would keep American workers from losing jobs to foreign workers, but pretty soon workers all over the world are going to be losing millions of jobs to technology, and it is going to be just about impossible to make laws to prevent that from happening.

Just check out what is happening in China.  Many big firms had moved manufacturing to China because labor was much cheaper over there, but now a lot of those cheap Chinese workers are being replaced by robots

Apple’s iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn, in fact, has already begun automating certain work that was previously done by hand. A Chinese government official told a Hong Kong newspaper in May that Foxconn had replaced 60,000 workers with robots at one factory there. And the company is receiving incentives north of Shanghai in the eastern-central Jiangsu Province to accelerate investments in robotics to replace human labor, according to Chinese state media organization Xinhua.

Sadly, this is just the beginning.  According to one study, 49 percent of all activities currently performed by human workers could already “be turned over to some sort of machine or robot”…

About 49% of worker activities can be turned over to some sort of machine or robot, increasingly helped along by artificial-intelligence software, according to consultancy McKinsey.

About 58% of CEOs plan to cut jobs over the next five years because of robotics, while 16% say they plan to hire more people because of robotics, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey.

And Carl Frey of Oxford University has determined that some professions have more than a 90 percent chance of becoming automated in the coming years

The revelations that dependable office jobs such as insurance workers and real estate agents have a more than 97% chance of becoming computerised could now spark fears among the middle class workforce.

‘While low-skilled jobs are most exposed to automation over the forthcoming decades, a substantial number of middle-income jobs are equally at risk.’ Frey told The Times.

Other jobs that feature high on the ‘risk list’ are credit analysts who have a 97% chance of losing their jobs to robots, postal service workers at 95% and lab technicians who have an 89% chance of seeing their role become automated.

So what in the world are we going to do with billions of human workers around the globe that are no longer needed when technology takes virtually all of our jobs?

Some have suggested that the idea of “work” will become a thing of the past, and that society will evolve into a socialist utopia where everything we need is provided for by the government.  In fact, the concept of a “universal basic income” is already being promoted in Europe and elsewhere.

But others see a dystopian future where the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” grows greater than ever before.  Humanity has always been plagued by poverty and greed, and everyone agrees that the gap between the very wealthy and the rest of us has been growing very rapidly in recent years.

Where there is nearly universal agreement is on the fact that big changes are coming.  Workers are going to be displaced by technology at an accelerating rate in the years ahead, and this will present a tremendous challenge for us all.

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