The world markets are in flux today over the Ukrainian crisis. The US stock market was down and gold pushed up. Prices of goods are rising and rents are at the highest point yet making disposable income shrink. Connecticut is starting the gun confiscation and many people are not complying. The Ukraine crisis continues, the US is planning sanctions more and more cities, countrymen in the Ukraine are joining the Russian/Crimea side. The US is planning its next move. General Alexander has reported that there is now a cyber attack red line and if a country crosses it the US will respond. Be prepared for a false flag.
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10 Stories From The Cold, Hard Streets Of America That Will Break Your Heart
By Michael Snyder, on February 23rd, 2014
If the economy is really “getting better”, then why have millions upon millions of formerly middle class Americans been pushed to the point of utter despair?
The stories that you are about to read are absolutely heartbreaking. I don’t know how anyone can read them without getting chills. In America today, if you lose a good job, there is a good chance that you will get back on your feet before too long. But there is also a good chance that you won’t be able to find a decent job and will plunge into the abyss of depression and desperation that so many millions of other Americans have fallen into. As I wrote about earlier this month, the U.S. economy is definitely not getting any better. For example, if you assume that the percentage of Americans that want to work is about at the long term average, then the official unemployment rate in the United States would be above 11 percent. And compared to six years ago, 1,154,000 fewer Americans are working today even though our population has gotten significantly larger since then. Behind all of these numbers are real flesh and blood people, and you are about to hear from some of them. The following are 10 stories from the cold, hard streets of America that will break your heart…
“While my wife goes to work, I’ve been staying at home to conserve fuel. I’ve been losing weight from eating less, so my family has more on their plates. It feels like the government and big business expect more and more while trying to give back as little as possible. Soon my internet connection will be shut off and since most companies don’t offer paper applications, how will I find work then? Walking around for miles a day, asking for an application that may or may not be available?”
#2 Homeless people wasting away in “Obamavilles” on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland…
A sheet of plastic laid over a clothesline. A mini-fortress of milk crates stacked under a tree. A thin mattress on a flimsy crate lying in a dark tunnel.
On the edge of Baltimore’s woodlands, dozens of the city’s transients live in makeshift homes which they consider safer than homeless shelters.
You can see some incredible photos of how these homeless people are living right here.
#3 A 50-year-old woman in Pennsylvania named Karen…
“My husband only makes 10 dollars an hour and drives 30 miles round trip, so it’s taking all we have just to keep the Jeep filled with gas. We stopped going to church and all to save gas. We are homebodies now, afraid to use what gas we have. We save two kids from getting put in foster care just to be hit like this. It’s just a constant trap they try to keep you from receiving any help! I’m so disgusted when my 12-year-old asks me why we don’t have snacks anymore, or why are we eating so much rice, etc.”
“I live right at ground zero. South West Virginia and let me tell you things are bad and getting worse by the day. We don’t do drugs but have family members hooked on meth and or pills or both. Many of these pills are prescribed by local doctors either Suboxone to get you off the opiates, a total joke by the way and tons of Xanax why would anyone need 120 Xanax a month how can you even be expected to function. These pills get traded for cash sex and other items, same goes for the SNAP cards. We have family members going to jail repeatedly for the same crimes making meth, selling pills and stealing anything that’s not nailed down. People who are 30 years old look like they are 55 years old. The jobs here are awful walmat, gas stations, fast food etc. Most of our whole county is on the government dole.”
“I was working as a firefighter for the state of California and was laid off in April 2012, right at the beginning of fire season. At my age, I’m not going to be picked up by another fire department. They want younger guys.
I’ve applied for everything from truck driver, to sales, to nonprofit work. I’ve sent out almost 400 resumes, and I’ve gotten nothing. I’ve done whatever I could to make ends meet.
Through some connections, I got a temp job as a truck driver in Napa Valley — a 3-hour commute from where I live. I lived in my car and worked during grape harvest.”
#6 In this tough economic environment, debt collectors are becoming even more aggressive. Just check out the kind of harassment that one woman named Jennifer Posey has been put through…
“This is Jimmy Lee calling from CheckCare. Just letting you know we’re in full force,” he said. The man had a thick Southern accent that stretched the word “you” into a two-syllable accusation. “We’re going to have warrants out for your arrest in Columbus, Ga.,” the man threatened. “We know you have an apartment on the canal in Clearwater.”
It was when he mentioned her home in Florida that Posey began to feel anxious. “We’re hurting you,” he continued. “We’re hurting your family, your son’s family, your cousin’s family. Whatever we can do to get you to pay.”
Forty minutes later, her phone rang again. “What about that 12-, 13-year-old child you’re trying to raise?” the voice sneered.
On Sunday, members of the Machinists Union District 837 in St. Louis will vote on a new seven-and-a-half-year contract extension, similar to what Machinists in Washington state barely approved on January 3 to win production of the 777X airliner.
One thing in common is that the St. Louis Machinists are also being asked to move away from a traditional pension plan to a 401k style “defined contribution plan.” In those plans employee contributions into a retirement fund are matched by the company, with the money invested in things like stocks and bonds. That move has been met with anger and resistance in the Puget Sound.
The St. Louis labor agreement was announced Wednesday night and is being recommended by the leadership for passage. Unlike the Puget Sound region of Washington, which is seeing a booming business in airliner production, St. Louis factories are focused on fighter jets and military hardware and are struggling with tighter defense budgets.
Right now production of the F-18 Super Hornet is slated to end in just two years in 2016 unless more orders can be found. Boeing is expected to make the case to the Pentagon that by lowering the relative price of the jets with a new labor deal it can bring in more business and secure jobs. The plant also makes big parts for the C-17 cargo jet for the U.S. Air Force that is slated to shut down in late 2015. Boeing assembles the C-17 in Long Beach, California.
LONDON (Reuters) – Barclays said it would axe up to 12,000 jobs this year even as it raised bonuses for investment bankers, prompting fury among politicians and unions who said it had not learned the lessons of the financial crisis.
Britain’s third-biggest bank said up to 9 percent of employees could go, including 7,000 in Britain, as it tries to lower costs. The cuts are not concentrated in any one business area.
It said it paid 2.4 billion pounds ($3.9 billion) in incentive awards last year, raising bonuses at the investment bank by 13 percent despite a slump in its profits. The average bonus for the investment bank’s 26,200 staff was 60,100 pounds.
Critics of the bonus hike said it showed Britain’s biggest banks were still failing to heed the lessons of a financial crisis caused by dangerous risk taking and excessive pay.
“Today Barclays has stuck two fingers up to hard-pressed families across Britain by announcing another multi-billion pound bonus pool,” said Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress.
Barclays Chief Executive Antony Jenkins, who took the helm in 2012 after an interest rate rigging scandal, has vowed to improve culture and standards at the bank while also reducing risk and strengthening the balance sheet.
But its investment bank profits slumped 37 percent last year to 2.5 billion pounds and analysts voiced concern about whether Jenkins can reach his target of a return on equity above 11.5 percent by 2016.
Getting costs down looked more challenging than expected, they said, while increased regulatory pressure and a grim outlook for fixed-income revenue made the target on returns look difficult to achieve.
Barclays shares were down 5 percent at 261 pence by 7.55 a.m. ET, underperforming a 0.7 percent rise by an index of European banks.
“WE NEED THE BEST PEOPLE”
The higher bonuses lifted the compensation-to-income ratio in the investment bank to 43.2 percent last year from 40 percent in 2012. Jenkins, who gave up his own bonus for 2013, said he still aimed for a ratio in the “mid-30s” across the bank.
He defended the bigger bonus pot, saying the bank had to recruit the best staff to compete with global rivals and continued to have “constructive” talks with investors over pay.
“We need to recruit people from Singapore to San Francisco. We need the best people in the bank to drive long-term sustainable returns for our shareholders,” Jenkins told reporters on a conference call.
“I understand that there will be some (people) who feel that this decision is the wrong one for Barclays. But it is the decision of the board and myself that this entirely is the right decision for the group and in the long-term interests of shareholders,” he said.
But business leaders’ group the Institute of Directors said the bank’s bonus policy raised the question of whether it was being run for its shareholders, or its staff.
It is not easy for one bank to anger more people with one announcement than what Barclays did in the past 24 hours. In one fell swoop, the British bank infuriated shareholders after announcing dismal earnings (an adjusted Q4 profit of about 200 million pounds and a statutory profit of less than 100 million as investment banking income slumped 37% as income fell 9% to 10.7 billion due to a fall in fixed income, and it took further charges related to a cleanup of the banking industry in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis) which sent the share price sliding, it then pissed off UK workers and taxpayers after it announced it would hike investment bank bonuses by 13% despite the abovementioned profit slump, and finally it crushed 9% of its workforce, or 12,000 workers, who are set to prepare pink slips as the bank “streamlines.”
Barclays said 820 senior roles would go, and half of those were cut at the investment bank in the last two weeks. It cut 7,650 jobs last year, including 1,400 in the investment bank, as part of a restructuring unveiled a year ago by Jenkins to cut 1.7 billion pounds of annual costs. There were 139,600 Barclays employees by the end of the year.
Stepping up efforts to cut costs, Barclays said up to 9 percent of employees could go, including 7,000 in Britain, where half of the affected staff had already been notified. The cuts are not concentrated in any single business area.
Britain’s third-biggest bank said it paid 2.4 billion pounds ($3.9 billion) in incentive awards last year after raising bonuses at the investment bank by 13 percent despite a slump in profits from the business. The average bonus across the investment bank’s 26,200 staff was 60,100 pounds.
The unemployment rate used to be a pretty straightforward economic indicator. It showed the percentage of people who want a job but don’t have one — one of the most basic measures of labor market health.
But the number has been acting in funny ways since the recession, and it just keeps getting weirder. The unemployment rate skyrocketed as millions of people lost their jobs during the darkest days of the financial crisis. That part makes sense.
What is harder to understand is why the jobless rate has dropped substantially even though many workers do not have jobs. Solving that puzzle requires looking at more esoteric labor market data. Even newly minted Fed chief Janet Yellen said on Capitol Hill today that “we shouldn’t focus only on the unemployment rate.”
Technology and globalization have transformed employment amid the slow economic recovery.
Mark Riley was 53 years old when he lost a job as a grant writer for an Arkansas community college. “I was stunned,” he said. “It happened on my daughter’s 11th birthday.” His boss blamed state budget cuts.
That was almost three years ago and he still hasn’t found steady work. Riley, whose unemployment benefits ran out 14 months ago, says his long and fruitless search is proof employers won’t hire men out of work too long.
“We’re poor, but we’re not broke,” Riley said. “We still have property. We have cars. We have some assets, we just can’t liquidate them.”
Riley’s frustration is widely shared. More than one in six men ages 25 to 54, prime working years, don’t have jobs—a total of 10.4 million. Some are looking for jobs; many aren’t. Some had jobs that went overseas or were lost to technology. Some refuse to uproot for work because they are tied down by family needs or tethered to homes worth less than the mortgage. Some rely on government benefits. Others depend on working spouses.
Having so many men out of work is partly a symptom of a U.S. economy slow to recover from the worst recession in 75 years. It is also a chronic condition that shows how technology and globalization are transforming jobs faster than many workers can adapt, economists say.
The trend has been building for decades, according to government data. In the early 1970s, just 6 percent of American men ages 25 to 54 were without jobs. By late 2007, it was 13 percent. In 2009, during the worst of the recession, nearly 20 percent didn’t have jobs.
Although the economy is improving and the unemployment rate is falling, 17 percent of working-age men weren’t working in December. More than two-thirds said they weren’t looking for work, so the government doesn’t label them unemployed. The January snapshot of the job market is due Friday.
For women, the story is different. In the 1950s, only about a third of women ages 25 to 54 had jobs. That rose steadily until the 1990s, and then leveled off for reasons that aren’t clear. At last tally, about 70 percent were working; 30 percent weren’t.
Men without jobs stand apart in a society that has long celebrated work and hailed the breadwinners who support their families. “Our culture is one that venerates work, that views work as good for its own sake,” said David Autor, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist.
The bleak prospects for the long-term unemployed—40 percent of men looking for jobs say they have been out of work six months or more—alarms policy makers and economists. The longer a person is unemployed, according to historic data, the harder it is to find a job.
Surveys find that most of the jobless spend their days in the same way working men spend weekends—watching TV, working out, sleeping. Economists say part of the problem is that men with few marketable skills and little education can’t find work that pays enough to get them off the couch.
Since the early 1970s, the average inflation-adjusted wage for high-school dropouts has fallen about 25 percent; for high-school graduates with no college degree, it is down about 15 percent. Simply put, many of the available jobs don’t pay enough to get men to take them, particularly if securing a job requires moving, long commutes or surrendering government benefits.
AOL became the latest company to blame Obamacare for cutting back on employee benefits.
The tech firm will now pay its 401(k) company match only to employees who are active on Dec. 31 of that year, as opposed to in their paychecks throughout the year. So those who leave the company before the end of the year will forfeit the match.
AOL (AOL) CEO Tim Armstrong blamed $7.1 million in additional Obamacare costs the company is facing this year. Had the company not made the change in its 401(k) payments, employees would have seen their health insurance costs increase, he told CNN Thursday.
Armstrong did not provide a lot of specifics about what aspects of Obamacare were pushing up the company’s health care costs, but said it was one factor affecting the 401(k) restructuring.
“The Obamacare Act and some of the changes that happened there had increases in our health care costs,” Armstrong told CNN. “We had to make a choice whether we pass those on or whether we took other benefits and reduce them.”
Some employees will still see their premiums rise, depending on the plan they picked, though AOL “ate a huge piece of the increase.”
The news came on a day when AOL announced 2013 was “its most successful year in the last decade,” reporting revenues of $2.3 billion.
AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong blames the new health care law for why his company has made a major change to its 401(k) benefits. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg)
AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong Thursday offered a number of unusual explanations for why his company pulled back its 401(k) benefits for employees this year. The first reason: Obamacare. The second: two women at the company who had “distressed babies” in 2012.
The stock, which reached $51 on Thursday morning because of a good earnings release by AOL, fell to 47.15 by the end of regular trading. It’s down another 2.5 percent Friday.
How did this mess begin? The Washington Post reported Tuesday that AOL quietly made a major change to its 401(k) plan by switching its match to a lump sum at the end of the year, rather than contributing with every paycheck. The benefit is only available to employees who are still active on Dec. 31.
Retirement experts widely agree that the change hurts all employees–not just those who leave mid-year–since savers miss out on the benefits of investing more money throughout the year, a strategy known as “dollar cost averaging.”
When he was asked on CNBC this morning why AOL was making the change, Armstrong said it was to spare employees from what he described as the added costs of Obamacare.
‘Obamacare’ will reduce US workforce, report finds
Kentucky – cancer capital of the US – is deeply divided on “Obamacare”
The reductions will begin in 2017 after the law’s provisions take full effect, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in its report.
Lower-income workers will be hardest hit, limiting their hours to avoid losing federal subsidies.
Conservatives and the White House promptly clashed over the findings.
In Tuesday’s report the nonpartisan CBO said work hours would be reduced by the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time workers by 2021. The watchdog had previously estimated the healthcare law would result in 800,000 fewer workers.
‘Making it worse’
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, will result in a slower rate of employment growth over the next decade, according to the findings.
The congressional analysts say there will be fewer workers because healthcare subsidies would “reduce incentives to work” and pose an “implicit tax on working” for those returning to a job with health insurance.
The CBO said some US businesses might decide to reduce their workforce to fewer than 50 full-time employees to avoid having to provide health insurance as mandated under the law.
The report also found older US workers nearing retirement may opt to work shorter hours to retain healthcare subsidies until they qualify for Medicare, a federal health programme for the elderly.
Employees may also face lower wages due to tax levees and penalties against their employers, the report found.
The CBO findings provided fodder for congressional Republicans who are likely to make the health law a major issue in November’s midterm elections.
“The middle class is getting squeezed in this economy, and this CBO report confirms that Obamacare is making it worse,” Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said in a statement on Tuesday.
A girl pays for her mother’s groceries using Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) tokens, more commonly known as Food Stamps, at the GrowNYC Greenmarket in Union Square on September 18, 2013 in New York City. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images/AFP)
As the White House proclaims a recovery is occurring, and the stock market has a head of steam, millions of Americans and their dependents are being left out of the recovery, according to a set of economic indicators.
Perhaps the most worrying yet least reported aspect of the so-called US recovery involves the national labor picture. Although the official US unemployment rate is 6.7 percent, this figure obscures the reality, according to an influential Wall Street adviser.
In a leaked memo to clients, David John Marotta calculates the actual unemployment rate of Americans out of work at an astronomic 37.2 percent, as opposed to the 6.7 percent claimed by the Federal Reserve.
“The unemployment rate only describes people who are currently working or looking for work,” he said.
“Unemployment in its truest definition, meaning the portion of people who do not have any job, is 37.2 percent. This number obviously includes some people who are not or never plan to seek employment. But it does describe how many people are not able to, do not want to or cannot find a way to work,” he and colleague Megan Russell reveal in their client report, which was leaked to the Washington Examiner.
Contrary to expectations, a drop in the unemployment rate, Marotta argues, is presently a sign that the unemployed are simply dropping out of the job market.
The “officially-reported unemployment numbers decrease when enough time passes to discourage the unemployed from looking for work,” said Marotta andRussel. “A decrease is not necessarily beneficial; an increase is clearly detrimental.”
The authors then take aim at the so-called Misery Index, which provides something of a pulse rate of American prosperity, based on unemployment and inflation. The Wall Street adviser said the Index, which he maintains is actually over 14, as opposed to the 8 advertised by Washington, fails to address how the US economy is being hugely subsidized by various schemes, including monthly bond purchases by the Federal Reserve.
“Today, the Misery Index would be 7.54 using official numbers,” the two analysts wrote. However, taking into consideration the full unemployment picture, including workers who have given up the job search, which is 10.2 percent, together with the historical method of calculating inflation, which is now 4.5 percent, ‘the current misery index is closer to 14.7.”
Don’t believe the happy talk coming out of the White House, Federal Reserve and Treasury Department when it comes to the real unemployment rate and the true “Misery Index.” Because, according to an influential Wall Street advisor, the figures are a fraud.
In a memo to clients provided to Secrets, David John Marotta calculates the actual unemployment rate of those not working at a sky-high 37.2 percent, not the 6.7 percent advertised by the Fed, and the Misery Index at over 14, not the 8 claimed by the government.
Marotta, who recently advised those worried about an imploding economy to get a gun, said that the government isn’t being honest in how it calculates those out of the workforce or inflation, the two numbers used to get the Misery Index figure.
“The unemployment rate only describes people who are currently working or looking for work,” he said. That leaves out a ton more.
“Unemployment in its truest definition, meaning the portion of people who do not have any job, is 37.2 percent. This number obviously includes some people who are not or never plan to seek employment.
Eight hours may seem a long time to wait for a meal. But the line of cars that formed in a derelict parking lot in Hertford, North Carolina, early last Thursday morning, full of people waiting for a few cans of soup and some pasta from a local food bank, was nothing unusual. Almost every morning now, there is a line like that somewhere in North Carolina.
From a distance, the rows of cars look innocuous enough. But they are a symbol of the desperation that has gotten worse in North Carolina since July, when a swathe of cuts to unemployment benefits made it arguably the worst state in the US to be out of work.
The cars appeared in Hertford shortly before 8am, though the truck bringing the food was not scheduled to arrive until 4pm. Volunteers who hand out the food said it is not uncommon for cars to start lining up before dawn.
“I had a man the other day who said: ‘All I want is a bar of soap,’” said Laura Williams, a volunteer at the storage depot in nearby Elizabeth City. “Another man came in here and said: ‘Can you get me some toilet paper? I’ve been having to use coffee filters.’”
She added: “We get that a lot – people asking for toilet paper. But we can’t stock too much of that as we’ve got to concentrate on canned food.”
Washington has this month been dominated by a political fight over whether to restore a federal benefits program for the long-term unemployed, which was allowed to expire on 28 December, cutting off a lifeline to more than 1.4 million Americans. The White House and Democrats want to reinstate the benefits. Republicans are reluctant.
What North Carolina is currently experiencing is a foretaste of the economic story likely to unfold across the country unless the federal benefits are restored.
The people in line on Thursday constituted a cross-section of America’s poor. Of those who wound down their windows and agreed to talk, the eldest was 77, the youngest 19. They included pensioners, students, people working for minimum wage and some who had recently been laid off. They were there so early, and willing to wait so long, because they wanted to increase their chances of receiving perishable items rather than just canned goods. Get a spot near the front of the line, and you might get some fresh vegetables, bread, or even some frozen chicken.
By 4pm, there were more than 100 cars in the dilapidated parking lot – once a bustling shopping mall. At the very front were Floyd Liston, 59, and his friend, Bobby Bass, 65. Their story was not atypical.
Bass is retired after years working in a cotton mill. Liston, a diabetic, worked all his life but had to give up in 2011 after a routine blister on his foot deteriorated. Married with two daughters, Liston didn’t have health insurance and did not visit a doctor until it was too late. “The infection had eaten all the bone. They told me to go to the hospital and that night they took my leg off,” he said.
In February, in an attempt to address a $2bn debt that it owed the federal government, North Carolina passed a law that slashed both the number of weeks for which a job-seeker can receive state benefits and reduced the amount that it pays out in unemployment, from $535 a week to $350.
In doing so, North Carolina knowingly violated a contract with the federal government, resulting in the automatic cutting off of federal assistance for the long-term unemployed. The changes, which came into effect in July, therefore didn’t just cut the amount of support that people who lost their jobs received from their government by a third, it also meant the maximum length of time they could receive such benefits plummeted from 99 weeks to just 19.
“What happened in North Carolina was one the harshest cuts in unemployment benefits we’ve ever seen in this country,” said Mike Evangelist, a policy director at the National Employment Law Project. “Nothing I know of compares to it.”
The precise impact of the benefits reduction in North Carolina is difficult to discern, said Larry Katz, a Harvard professor. But he and other economists have recently been pointing to figures that hint at an alarming phenomena: people have been dropping out of an already bleak labor market, and in record numbers.
Since July, when the cuts came into force, North Carolina has experienced the largest contraction in its labor force since record-keeping began in 1977. Remarkably, the sharp decline in the workforce in North Carolina, which has a population of 9.75 million, has even altered the national picture.
Timothy Littke, 55, from Lumberton, gave up looking for work in North Carolina in October. He was laid off from his job building hog feeders in June, a month before the benefits cuts kicked in.
He has since relocated to live with his daughter in Pittsburgh. The story of Littke’s departure says much about about deprivation in his old home of Lumberton – a small city in the south of the state which, by one measure, is the poorest in America.
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