Does Germany Intend to Leave the Eurozone?

The Economic Collapse
March 12, 2012

For a long time, most analysts have believed that if someone was going to leave the euro, it would be a weak nation such as Greece or Portugal.  But the truth is that financially troubled nations such as Greece and Portugal don’t want to leave the euro.  The leaders of those nations understand that if they leave the euro their economies will totally collapse and nobody will be there to bail them out.  And at this point there really is not a formal mechanism which would enable other members of the eurozone to kick financially troubled nations such as Greece or Portugal out of the euro.  But there is one possibility that is becoming increasingly likely that could actually cause the break up of the euro.  Germany could leave the euro.  Yes, it might actually happen.  Germany is faced with a very difficult problem right now.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Party has passed legislation that would allow the country to leave the Eurozone.

It is looking at a future where it will be essentially forced to bail out most of the rest of the nations in the eurozone for many years to come, and those bailouts will be extremely expensive.  Meanwhile, the mood in much of the rest of Europe is becoming decidedly anti-German.  In Greece, Angela Merkel and the German government are being openly portrayed as Nazis.  Financially troubled nations such as Greece want German bailout money, but they are getting sick and tired of the requirements that Germany is imposing upon them in order to get that money.  Increasingly, other nations in Europe are simply ignoring what Germany is asking them to do or are openly defying Germany.  In the end, Germany will need to decide whether it is worth it to continue to pour billions upon billions of euros into countries that don’t appreciate it and that are not doing what Germany has asked them to do.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party recently approved a resolution that would allow a country to leave the euro without leaving the European Union.

Many thought that the resolution was aimed at countries like Greece or Portugal, but the truth is that this resolution may be setting the stage for a German exit from the euro.

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Doomsday Economic Collapse is Another Conspiracy Fact

February 27, 2012

Behind the mainstream Wall Street happy talk about more stable financial markets and an improving economy are grim warnings of tough times ahead from a small cadre of doomsayers who warn that the worst of the financial crisis is still to come.

Harry Dent, author of the new book The Great Crash Ahead, says another stock market crash is coming due to a bad ending to the global debt bubble. He has pulled back on his earlier prediction of a crash in 2012, as central banks around the world have been flooding markets with money, giving stocks an artificial short-term boost. But a crash is coming in 2013 or 2014, he warns. “This will be a repeat of 2008-09, only bigger, when it finally hits,” Dent told USA TODAY.

Gerald Celente, a trend forecaster at the Trends Research Institute, says Americans should brace themselves for an “economic 9/11” due to policymakers’ inability to solve the world’s financial and economic woes. The coming meltdown, he predicts, will lead to growing social unrest and anti-government sentiment, a U.S. dollar with far less purchasing power and more people out of work.

Celente won’t rule out another financial panic that could spark enough fear to cause a run on the nation’s banks by depositors. That risk could cause the government to invoke “economic martial law” and call a “bank holiday” and close banks as it did during the Great Depression.

“We see some kind of threat of that magnitude,” Celente, publisher of The Trends Journal newsletter, warned in an interview.

Robert Prechter, author of Conquer the Crash, first published in 2002 and updated in 2009, is still bearish. He says today’s economy has similarities to the Great Depression and warns that 1930s-style deflation is still poised to cause financial havoc. Prechter predicts that the major U.S. stock indexes, such as the Dow Jones industrials and Standard & Poor’s 500, will plunge below their bear market lows hit in March 2009 during the last financial crisis. The brief recovery will fail as it did in the 1930s, he says.

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Why are Preppers the Center of Attention?

Reuters equals prepared people to Harold Camping followers and labels them a “kooky” subculture.

by Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
January 23, 2012

Being prepared for the worst is not move that should only come in times of crisis. The folks that are best fitted to face uncommon and sudden shake ups in what we call society as usually the ones who laugh hard at last. Keeping food and water for difficult situations such as natural disasters and social unrest is the least a responsible, independent individual should think about.

However, the main stream media has taken it upon themselves to call people who prepare for what all signs seem show will be a global social collapse, a bunch of doomsday religious freaks. A recent article on Reuters begins by derogatively calling those who save food and water for the purposes of surviving a natural or man-made crisis, a subculture. The piece written by Jim Forsyth, who is responsible for most of the name calling, implies that if you firmly believe in a possible end to society as we know it, then you may be a kook.

Mr. Forsyth presents the case of a Viriginia resident, Patty Tegeler, who believes everything can change “in any instant”. The author compares people like Tegeler with the hippies of the 60’s and the preppers of the 90’s. Both groups are seen as extreme due to the fact they chose to partially or totally separate themselves from the society as they knew it in an effort to remain free an self-reliant. “Tegeler, 57, has turned her home in rural Virginia into a “survival center,” complete with a large generator, portable heaters, water tanks, and a two-year supply of freeze-dried food,” reads the article, which then targets the vendors who offer their products to people who desire to be prepared.

In addition to trying to make preppers the laughing stock of the day, Reuters’ article includes the opinion of an “end-times” expert, who Forsyth cites as saying that fear and suffering are the main causes of people becoming prepared for whatever they see as a threat. How about the simple reason of being prepared? The so-called expert indirectly compares preppers with followers of preacher Joseph Miller, who in 1844 decided to sell their properties and form a commune to wait for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Somehow, being worried about the end of a working economy, filling a room with food and water, getting energy generators and moving to the woods seems to be an exaggerated move. Never mind the fact that over 40 million Americans are dependent on food stamps to survive. They wished they could have prepared, don’t they? This fact alone answers the question asked by the article as to why are so many people are going insane about being prepared. With not even half of the crisis gone by and over 40 million people dependent on government welfare, the surprising outcome would be that people did not prepare themselves, wouldn’t it?

In an effort to balance the content of the article, the author includes the opinion of Michael T. Snider, a news writer who agrees with the fact people must be prepared. “Most people have a gut feeling that something has gone terribly wrong, but that doesn’t mean that they understand what is happening,” said Snider. Perhaps it will take a year or two for the preppers to be proven right, just as it happened with the alternative news media -today considered the real main stream media- that warned about the impending economic collapse, its causes and consequences. Maybe after firefights break out on the streets of the United States, as the country collapses, news organizations will stop making fun of preppers, and will begin to show others how the preppers did it.

The Reuters’ article ends with a quote from Mrs. Tegeler: “I think it’s silly not to be prepared,” she said. “After all, anything can happen.”

The Collapse of Nations All By The Hand Of Corrupt Bankers

by Robert Chapman
International Forecaster
June 18th, 2011

As far as we can discern the US Treasury thus far has spent and borrowed about $100 billion from the federal pension accounts. Unless there is a vote on the cash debt extension prior to August 2nd, government will probably have borrowed some $250 billion to $300 billion. The Treasury is paying virtually no interest on this debt. Three-month Treasury bills are currently yielding zero percent. Our question is how will the funds be generated to fulfill the Treasury’s obligation to the pension fund? What happens if on August 2nd if legislation is not passed? Does this go on forever? We will keep you apprised on new developments.

The current situation regarding the state of recovery in the US has turned from precarious to dismal and as we predicted a year ago May we will have to be treated to QE3 something no one really wants, but as we said before it is inevitable. The Fed and their controllers, the member bank owners of the Fed, know the present approach doesn’t work and it is only a matter of time, as a result of their policies, when more stimulus will be needed, which in turn leads to more inflation.

Due to the current state of affairs Fed Chairman Bernanke has been making one appearance on TV after another. He gets grilled over and over again and he doesn’t like the public reception at all.

It should be firmly implanted in your mind that your masters in government and those controlling government brazenly and arrogantly believe that they know better what is good for you, than you do. That is why when they speak to you their answers are dripping with condescension – as if to say, how dare you question what we tell you. Fed Chairman, Mr. Bernanke, is a perfect example of this. He, others and his predecessors have created a false economy based upon perpetual debt and upon money and credit being created out of thin air. Today that is accompanied with zero interest rates, a combination that in time can only bring a falling dollar, inflation and a collapsing economy. Mr. Bernanke appears to believe that an increased supply of money has little or no effect on the comparison between money and the prices of goods. He has to be living in a fairy tale land. Thinking such as this can only end up making a bad economic situation worse.

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The Cycle of Debt Deflation

Before It’s News

One of the most famous quotations of Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises is that “There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency involved.” In fact, the US economy is in a downward spiral of debt deflation despite the bold actions of the federal government and of the US Federal Reserve taken in response to the financial crisis that began in 2008 and the associated recession. Although the vicious circle of debt deflation is not widely recognized, precisely what von Mises described is happening before our eyes.

A variety of positive economic data has been reported in recent months. Retail sales rose 0.4% in April 2010 as consumer spending rose and the US gross domestic product (GDP) grew at a rate of 3%.  In May 2010, home sales rose to a five-month high and consumer confidence rose 17% (from 57.7 to 63.3). Industrial production rose 0.8% and durable goods orders rose 2.9%, more than had been forecast. However, the modest gains reported represent the continuing adaptation of economic activity at dramatically lower levels compared to the pre-recession period and most of the reported gains have been substantially manufactured by massive government deficit spending.

Despite the widely reported green shoots, in May, the unemployment rate rose to 9.9% while paychecks in the private sector shrank to historic lows as a percentage of personal income, and personal bankruptcies rose. Roughly 14% of US mortgages are delinquent or in foreclosure, credit card defaults are rising and consumer spending hit 7 month lows. To make matters worse, the reported increase in consumer credit, in fact, points to a further deterioration because consumers appear to be borrowing to service existing debt. Outside of the federal government, which is borrowing at record levels and expanding as a percentage of GDP, and outside of the bailed out financial sector, debt deflation has continued unabated since 2008.

Money Supply vs. Debt Service

A contraction of the broad money supply is taking place because the influx of money into the US economy, i.e., lending to consumers and non financial businesses, has fallen below the rate at which money is flowing out of general circulation as a function of debt service (interest and principle payments on existing debt), thus a net drain of money from the broad US economy is taking place. As a result, additional borrowing, as consumer spending falls, appears to be servicing existing debt in a pattern that is clearly unsustainable and that signals a further rise in debt defaults in coming months.
The estimate of the broad money supply (the Federal Reserve’s M3 monetary aggregate) is crashing and the Federal Reserve’s M1 Money Multiplier, a measure of how much new money is created through lending activity, fell off of a cliff in 2008, and remains practically flat-lined.
Chart courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
The contraction of the broad money supply points to a potential slowing of economic activity and indicates that consumers and non financial businesses will be less able to service existing debt. Despite easing somewhat in March 2010, credit card losses are expected to remain near 10% over the next year and mortgage delinquencies, are currently at a record highs, and these dismal predictions implicitly assume a stable or growing money supply.

A tsunami of eventual mortgage defaults seems to be building and loan modifications have been a failure thus far. There have been only a small number of permanent loan modifications (295,348) under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) in 2009, out of 3.3 million eligible (60 days delinquent) loans and more than half of modified loans default.

Mortgage Delinquencies and Foreclosures
Chart courtesy of Calculated Risk
Although it has been reported that American consumers are saving at a rate of 3.4%, the contraction of the broad money supply suggests savings liquidation. Given a contracting money supply, ongoing debt defaults and declining consumer spending, the increase in non-mortgage consumer loans indicates that consumers are borrowing where possible to consolidate debts, cover debt service, or borrowing to continue operating financially as their total debt grows, thus as they approach insolvency.
Chart courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
The increase in non-mortgage consumer loans has not prevented an overall decline in total household debt attributed to ongoing deleveraging by consumers. While deleveraging (paying down debt) has been interpreted as caution on the part of consumers, or as low consumer confidence, the decline in outstanding credit reflects a reduced ability to borrow, i.e., to service additional debt. This suggests that the recovery of the US economy may be illusory and that the economy is likely to contract further in coming months.
Chart courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Commercial borrowing has declined more sharply than household debt suggesting that the nominal return to growth estimated at 3% has not been matched by debt financed expansion in the private sector.
Chart courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
The broad US money supply is no longer being maintained or expanded by normal lending activity. If federal government deficit spending ($1.5 trillion annually), debt monetization and emergency actions by the Federal Reserve (totaling an estimated $1.5 trillion since 2008) to recapitalize banks are considered separately, there remains a net drain effect on the broad money supply. The scarcity of money hampers economic activity, i.e., money is less available for investment, and directly exacerbates debt defaults as consumers and businesses experience cash shortfalls, while at the same time being less able to borrow. Since unemployment is a key indicator of recession, then if the US economy were contracting, it would be evident in unemployment statistics.

Structural Unemployment

Unemployment and labor force data suggest that the US labor market is in a structural decline, i.e., millions of jobs have been and are being permanently eliminated, perhaps as a long term consequence of off-shoring, outsourcing to other countries and the ongoing de-industrialization of the United States. However, the immediate meaning of the term “structural” has to with the fact that jobs created or sustained during the unprecedented expansion of debt leading to the financial crisis that began in 2008, e.g., a substantial portion of service sector jobs created in the past two decades now appear not to be viable outside of a credit expansion.

Officially, the US unemployment rate rose to 9.9% in April 2010, which represents the percentage of workers claiming unemployment benefits. However, the total number of unemployed or underemployed persons, including so-called “discouraged workers” (Bureau of Labor Statistics U-6), rose to 17.1%Using the same methods that the BLS had used prior to the Clinton administration, U-6 would be approximately 22%, rather than the official 17.1% statistic.

U-6 Unemployment
With official U-6 unemployment of 17.1% and a workforce of 154.1 million there are roughly 26,197,000 people officially out of work. Using the pre-Clinton U-6 unemployment calculation of approximately 22%, there would be 33.9 million unemployed. If the average US household consists of 2.6 persons and if 33% of the unemployed are sole wage earners, then 55.5 million US citizens currently have no means of financial support (17.9% of the population).
Unemployment by Duration
Chart courtesy of Calculated Risk
While it has been reported that the labor force is shrinking, the characterization of workers permanently exiting the workforce by choice may be inaccurate. While a shrinking workforce could reflect demographic changes, the rate of change suggests that tens of millions of Americans are simply unemployed.
Chart courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Setting aside the question of whether or not those “not in the workforce” are, in fact, permanently unemployed, the workforce, as a percentage of the total US population, is currently at 1970s levels. Since many more households today depend on two incomes to meet their obligations, compared to the 1970s, a marked drop in the percentage of the population in the workforce points to a decline in the labor market more significant than official unemployment statistics suggest. What is more important, however, is that structural unemployment suggests structural government deficits, e.g., unemployment benefits, welfare, food stamps, etc. Since more than 2/3 of US GDP (roughly 70%) consists of consumer spending, a sustainable recovery from recession seems improbable if unemployment is worsening or if the labor force is in a structural decline, since that would imply unsustainable government deficits, whether or not they are masked by nominal GDP gains thanks to economic stimulus measures.

Government and GDP Growth

The US federal government is a growing portion of GDP, thus reported GDP growth is largely a byproduct of government deficit spending and stimulus measures, i.e., reported GDP growth is unsustainable. Total government spending at the local, state and federal levels accounts for as much as 45% of GDP, thus nominal gains would be expected when government deficit spending increases. According to some measures, reported gains in GDP are a byproduct of relatively new statistical methods and, using earlier methods of calculation, GDP remains negative.
Government borrowing and spending may have offset declines in the private sector but only to a degree and only temporarily. The resulting growth in US public debt has an eventual mathematical limit: insolvency. Of course, the actual limit to US borrowing remains unknown. The continuing solvency of the US depends on the ability and willingness of governments, banks and investors around the world to lend to the US, which in turn depends on the tolerance of lenders for the US government’s profligacy and money printing by the Federal Reserve, e.g., quantitative easing and exchanging new cash for worthless bank assets. US Treasury bond auctions will fail if lenders conclude that a sufficiently large portion of their investment will be diluted into oblivion by proverbial money printing. In that event, the US dollar will surely plummet, despite deflationary pressures within the domestic US economy, and the cost of foreign goods, e.g., oil, will rise causing high inflation or triggering hyperinflation.
Chart courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
According to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the federal budget deficit increased from 3.1% of GDP in 2007 to 9.2% in 2010.  Rather than being the result of one-time expenses, such as temporary stimulus measures, much of the deficit represents permanent increases in government spending, e.g., due to the growing number of federal employees. If increased government spending is removed, GDP appears to be declining significantly.
GDP Minus Government Deficit Spending
Chart courtesy of Karl Denninger
Of course, sustainability has more to do with total debt than with deficit spending because a deficit assumes that there is an underlying capacity to service additional debt.

Unsustainable Debt

While asset prices have declined, e.g., real estate and equities, debt levels have remained high due to the federal government’s policy of preserving bank balance sheets, which had ballooned prior to the financial crisis to the point that overall debt in the US economy reached unsustainable levels.
Total Debt to GDP
Chart courtesy of Karl Denninger
The absolute debt to GDP ratio of the US economy peaked in 2007 when debt levels exceeded the ability of the economy to service debt from income based on production, even at low interest rates. Although US GDP began to decline prior to the advent of the global financial crisis, debt coverage had been in decline approximately since the 1970s, coincidentally, around the time that the US dollar was decoupled from gold.
Declining Debt Coverage from 1971 on
Chart courtesy of Karl Denninger
Government deficit spending cannot correct the situation because, for every dollar of new borrowing, the gain in GDP is negligible and some have argued that the US economy has passed the point of “debt saturation.”
Debt Saturation
Chart courtesy of Nathan A. Martin
In a growing economy, additional debt can result in a net gain in GDP because the money supply grows and economic activity is stimulated by transactions that flow through the economy as a result. The debt saturation hypothesis is that, as debt levels rise, additional debt has less impact on GDP until a point is reached where new debt causes GDP to decline, i.e., the capacity of the economy to service debt has been exceeded and, not only is it impossible for the economy to grow at a rate sufficient to service existing debt (since interest compounds), but economic activity actually declines further as a function of additional debt.

A Downward Spiral

The process of debt deflation is straightforward. New lending at levels that would maintain or expand the broad money supply is impossible for two reasons: (1) asset values and incomes have fallen and millions remain unemployed; and (2) debt levels remain excessive compared to GDP, i.e., real economic activity (outside of the government and financial services industry) cannot service additional debt. The inability to lend, actually the result of prior excess lending, results in a net drain of money from the economy. The drain effect, in turn, leads to further defaults as cash strapped consumers and businesses fail to service existing debt, and as debt defaults impact bank balance sheets, putting a damper on new lending and completing the cycle of debt deflation.

Keynesian economic policies, i.e., government deficit spending, are irrelevant vis-à-vis excessive debt levels in the economy and bailing out banks is not a solution since it cannot stop the deterioration of their balance sheets. The process is self-perpetuating and cannot be stopped by any government or monetary policy because it is not a matter of policy, but rather one of mathematics.

Since the presence of excess debt (beyond what can be supported by a stable GDP, or by sustainable GDP growth) impacts the broad money supply, efforts to preserve bank balance sheets, i.e., to keep otherwise bad loans on the books of banks at full value, will ultimately cause bank balance sheets to deteriorate more than they would have otherwise. The fact that US banks issued trillions in bad loans cannot be corrected by changing accounting rules, nor can the consequences be avoided by government deficit spending or by unlimited bailouts, and the problem cannot be papered over by dropping freshly printed money from helicopters flying over Wall Street. The major problems facing the US economy today—a tsunami or debt defaults, structural unemployment, massive government budget deficits, a contraction of the broad money supply outside of the federal government and the financial system, and a lack of sustainable growth—cannot be addressed as long as excess debt levels are maintained. As von Mises clearly understood, sound economic conditions cannot be restored unless and until the excess debt, which resulted from a boom brought about by credit expansion, is purged from the system. The alternative, and the current policy of the United States, is a downward spiral into a bottomless economic abyss.