Did you know that 40 percent of all American workers make less than $20,000 a year before taxes? And 65 percent of all American workers make less than $40,000 a year before taxes. If you work on Wall Street, or have a cushy job with the federal government, or work for a big tech firm out on the west coast, life is probably pretty good for you right now. But the truth is that most Americans are not living the high life. In fact, most Americans are just trying to figure out how to survive from month to month. If we truly did have a free market capitalist system, the entire country would be a land of opportunity and things would be getting better for everybody. Unfortunately, that is not the case at all. The following are 21 facts about "wealthy America" and "poor America" that are hard to believe...
One quarter ago, when we performed our regular update on trends in US homeownership and rents, we said that "The American Homeownership Dream is officially dead. Long live the New Normal American Dream: Renting." What happened since then is that the American Dream briefly became a full-blown nightmare when in Q3 mortgage rates exploded, pummeling the affordability of housing, and ground any new mortgage-funded transactions to a complete halt (don't believe us - just ask the tens of thousands of mortgage brokers let go by the TBTF banks in the past 6 months). Which is why it was not at all surprising to find that the just updated Q3 homeownership rate has remained stuck at 65.1%: the lowest since 1995. And yet Americans have to live somewhere. That somewhere is as renters of Wall Street and other landlords. As the next chart shows, the median asking rent has once again risen in Q3, this time by just $1 from $735 to $736 per month.
As Angela Merkel prepares for her third term - in whatever odd coalition that lurches from the election - the following four charts may surprise many that believe in the core European nations' dominance uber alles. As Bloomberg's Niraj Shah notes, Merkel may find rebalancing the German economy, as its reliance on exports increases, harder than ever. The low levels of growth, high trade balances, excepotionally low consumption and homeownership, and growing "shadow" economy all point to a European core that is far from the beacon of stability so many assume it to be.
President Obama's speech last during the 50th anniversary of MLK may seem sadly ironic now. As he noted, "Dr. King explained that the goals of African-Americans were identical to working people of all races: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing..." but the facts are that, as Bloomberg reports, while, for most Americans, the real estate crash is finally behind them and personal wealth is back where it was in the boom. For blacks in the U.S., 18 years of economic progress has vanished, with a rebound in housing slipping further out of reach and the unemployment rate almost twice that of whites. The homeownership rate for blacks fell from 50% during the housing bubble to 43% in the second quarter, the lowest since 1995. The rate for whites stopped falling two years ago, settling at about 73%, only 3 percentage points below the 2004 peak. As Rev. Alvin Love, who knew Obama in the 80s notes, "it's going to take a generation to get back to the point where homeownership can build wealth in this community."
Barack Obama has been running around the country taking credit for an "economic recovery", but the truth is that things have not gotten better under Obama. Compared to when he first took office, a smaller percentage of the working age population is employed, the quality of our jobs has declined substantially and the middle class has been absolutely shredded. If we are really in the middle of an "economic recovery", why is the homeownership rate the lowest that it has been in 18 years? Why has the number of Americans on food stamps increased by nearly 50 percent while Obama has been in the White House? Why has the national debt gotten more than 6 trillion dollars larger during the Obama era? Obama should not be "taking credit" for anything when it comes to the economy. In fact, he should be deeply apologizing to the American people.
There are very few segments of the U.S. economy that are more heavily affected by interest rates than the real estate market is. When mortgage rates reached all-time low levels late last year, it fueled a little "mini-bubble" in housing which was greatly celebrated by the mainstream media. Unfortunately, the tide is now turning.
The American Homeownership Dream is officially dead. Long live the New Normal American Dream: Renting.
Everything is going to be just great. Haven't you heard? The stock market is at an all-time high, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that inflation is incredibly low, and the official unemployment rate has been steadily declining since early in Barack Obama's first term. Of course we are being facetious, but this is the kind of talk about the economy that you will hear if you tune in to the mainstream media. They would have us believe that those running things know exactly what they are doing and that very bright days are ahead for America. And it would be wonderful if that was actually true. Unfortunately, as I made exceedingly clear yesterday, the U.S. economy has already been in continual decline for the past decade.
"For years, the City has spent more than it takes in and has borrowed and deferred paying certain obligations to make ends meet. The City is insolvent" - Kevin Orr
The "coming economic collapse" has already been happening. You see, the truth is that the economic collapse is not a single event. It has already started, it is happening right now, and it will accelerate during the years ahead. The statistics in this article show very clearly that the U.S. economy has fallen dramatically over the past ten years or so. The mainstream media will continue to scoff knowingly, "An economic collapse is never going to happen. We can consume far more wealth than we produce forever. We can pile up gigantic mountains of debt forever. There is no way that the party is over. In fact, the party is just getting started. Woo-hoo!"Anyone with half a brain should be able to see what is coming. Just open your eyes and look at the facts...
A mortgage market that is practically 100% government-driven, impossibly low rates for impractically long periods of time, no MtM concerns to clear delinquent or foreclosed property from bank balance sheets, and sure enough 'prices' for the houses that are being sold have risen. But there's a rather worrisome unintended (we presume) consequence of this 'recovery'. As BofAML notes today, the US has shifted to renting at the dramatic expense of homeownership...
Today, another one of the original "big boys" has called it curtains on the landlord business: "We just don’t see the returns there that are adequate to incentivize us to continue to invest", according to the CEO Bruce Rose of Carrington, one of the first investors to use deep institutional pockets (in this case a $450 million investment from OakTree) and BTFHousingD. Rose's assessment of the market? "There’s a lot of -- bluntly -- stupid money that jumped into the trade without any infrastructure, without any real capabilities and a kind of build-it-as-you-go mentality that we think is somewhat irresponsible.... We’ll sit back in the weeds for a while and wait for a couple of blowups,” he said. “There’ll be a point in time when we’ll be happy to get back into the market at levels that make more sense.”
When you step back and look at the long-term trends, it is undeniable what is happening to us. We are in the midst of a horrifying economic decline that is the result of decades of very bad decisions. 30 years ago, the U.S. national debt was about one trillion dollars. Today, it is almost 17 trillion dollars. 40 years ago, the total amount of debt in the United States was about 2 trillion dollars. Today, it is more than 56 trillion dollars. At the same time that we have been running up all of this debt, our economic infrastructure and our ability to produce wealth has been absolutely gutted. Since 2001, the United States has lost more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities and millions of good jobs have been shipped overseas. Our share of global GDP declined from 31.8 percent in 2001 to 21.6 percent in 2011. The percentage of Americans that are self-employed is at a record low, and the percentage of Americans that are dependent on the government is at a record high. The U.S. economy is a complete and total mess, and it is time that we faced the truth.
As we reported earlier, spending on home improvements has paradoxically tumbled, a fact which did not escape Santelli, who brings it up and gets the following logical response: "when the homeowner is confident about the future of price appreciation, they're willing to invest and remodel." And vice versa: so does that by impliation imply a slide in expectations about future home appreciation? Santelli's conclusion is, as usually happens, spot on: "who will remodel more: a homeowner or a renter?" The answer is self-explanatory, as is any doubt as to whether the US is becoming a nation of renters.
The middle class is being absolutely eviscerated, and poverty is soaring to unprecedented heights. The fact that 90 percent of the population is constantly sliding downhill is not good for our society. The United States is supposed to be a land of opportunity with a vibrant free market system that enables average people to make better lives for themselves. Unfortunately, free enterprise is being strangled to death in the United States today. Entrepreneurs and small business are being pounded into oblivion by rules, regulations, red tape and oppressive levels of taxation. Our founding fathers warned that we should not allow such large concentrations of wealth and power, because they tend to funnel the rewards of society into the hands of a select few. The following are 22 facts that prove that the bottom 90 percent of America is systematically getting poorer...