Sunday, February 3, 2013

1.6 million US children live on streets or in homeless shelters

Researchers know a lot about how various factors associated with income level affect a child’s learning: parents’ educational attainment; how parents read to, play with and respond to their children; the quality of early care and early education; access to consistent physical and mental health services and healthy food. Poor children’s limited access to these fundamentals accounts for a good chunk of the achievement gap, which is why conceiving of it instead as an opportunity gap makes a lot more sense.
But we rarely discuss the impact of concentrated poverty—and of racial and socioeconomic segregation—on student achievement. James Coleman’s widely cited 1966 report Equality of Educational Opportunity has drawn substantial attention to the influence of family socioeconomic status on a child’s academic achievement. However, as Richard Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation, notes: “Until very recently, the second finding, about the importance of reducing concentrations of school poverty, has been consciously ignored by policymakers, despite publication of study after study that confirmed Coleman’s findings.”
It’s time that we stop ignoring it. The past few decades have seen increasing income polarization, with the top 1 percent reaping the vast majority of societal gains, the middle class shrinking, and those at the bottom losing ground. As a result, concentrated poverty is more potent and relevant an issue than ever. Add to that the fact that 2012 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of William Julius Wilson’s groundbreaking book, The Truly Disadvantaged, and we have every reason to reexamine the life realities, impacts and policy implications of segregation and entrenched, concentrated US poverty.
Wilson’s research explains how a combination of northward migration among African-American families, disproportionate loss of jobs in the industries in which they worked and the mass migration of middle-class black families from city centers to suburbs, created an underclass comprised of the truly disadvantaged: concentrated ghettos of poor, unemployed, under-educated families with dim school and life prospects, largely headed by single black women. Although Wilson’s work spurred multiple policy fields and thousands of studies on concentrated poverty, the reality for those experiencing it remains tragically unchanged. The number and proportion of families living in concentrated poverty dropped briefly during the boom years of the 1990s, but it has since increased again and even spread further:
[T]he problem of poverty concentration is growing, and the type of district grappling with the issue is no longer confined to those in urban areas. According to the U.S. Department of Education’sCondition of Education, 47% of elementary students now attend majority low-income schools, and the proportion of high-poverty schools has grown from 34 % in 1999 to 47 % in 2008. A 2010 Brookings Institution report, “The Suburbanization of Poverty,” found that in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, more poor people live in large suburbs than in their primary cities. (Kahlenberg p.3)
This trend frustrates efforts to improve educational achievement among low-income and minority students. Concentrated poverty plays a key role in explaining why poor white students perform better on tests, on average, than African-American students with similar family incomes. Not only are white children much less likely than their black peers to live in poverty (12.5 percent versus 37 percent), among those who are poor,only 12 percent of white children live in concentrated poverty, while nearly half of poor African-American children do. Black students are thus much more likely to attend schools in which most of their classmates are also poor. It isn’t hard to imagine the impact of this divide: black students disproportionately lack peers whose parents went to college and who take for granted that they will go; their schools and the pathways to them are more likely to be dangerous; their PTAs are comprised of parents with little political power to get the school system to meet their demands; and too many parents are overwhelmed by factors that render help with homework a major challenge—multiple or late-night jobs, cramped and unhealthy housing, lack of heat, and insufficient food.
Breaking up concentrated poverty and reducing segregation at the neighborhood and school levels offers tremendous potential. As Kahlenberg points out, “on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), low-income fourth grade students given the chance to attend more-affluent schools in math are two years ahead of low-income students stuck in high-poverty schools.”
Dr. Heather Schwartz, policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, also finds that socioeconomic integration trumps extra resources in boosting achievement. In her rigorous study of Montgomery County, Maryland, schools, low-income students whose subsidized housing assignments enabled them to attend very low-poverty schools closed more of the achievement gap with their high-income peers than did low-income students in higher-poverty schools who received an additional $2,000—monies which were devoted to extended learning time, smaller classes, and specialized professional development.
Effective policies exist to de-concentrate poverty and desegregate schools. Montgomery County showcases one of the smartest: laws that require developers to set aside a proportion of new housing units for subsidized housing, so that rather than creating ghettos of all-poor families (and resource-poor schools to go with them), lower-income families are able to reside in higher-income areas, and their children attend higher-income schools. Counties and cities across the country are exploring and adopting less restrictive zoning laws, since minimum-acreage lot requirements inherently lead to income segregation and force the concentration of poverty in less-restricted regions. The Century Foundation’s recent book, The Future of School Integration, advocates school “choice” focused on integrating students through voluntary inter-district transfer, and magnet schools that draw students of different ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds without busing, by making the case to today’s parents that a twenty-first-century education requires no less.
As the United States increasingly regresses toward a Gilded Age of haves and have-nots—in terms of income, education, and opportunity—taking on concentrated poverty is critical. Indeed, Richard Rothstein and Mark Santow assert in their recent paper that, until we do so, education reform efforts are all but doomed. Continuing to consign so many children and families to communities devoid of pathways out of poverty is tantamount to throwing away our greatest resource for the twenty-first century: human potential.
Elaine Weiss is the national coordinator for the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, where she works with a high-level Task Force and coalition partners to promote a comprehensive, evidence-based set of policies to allow all children to thrive.
Update: 2013 Anti-poverty/Pro-prosperity Contract
There are a handful of groups that have expressed interest in collaborating on a version of the anti-poverty contract for 2013, and at least one prominent advocate that is working on building a coalition around it. In the meantime, progress is being made on some of the five issues I recently highlighted in my post.
Child Care and Early Learning
Joan Entmacher, vice president for family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center, writes, “Some good news from two states advancing elements of the anti-poverty agenda you outlined.”
She reports that in Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick announced a plan to strengthen the state’s education system, including early education and childcare. The plan would eliminate the state’s waiting list of nearly 30,000 children who cannot currently access childcare assistance; help early educators and childcare providers improve their programs and attain higher levels of proficiency, skill and quality; increase educational programs and supports for parents and family members to further engage them in their child’s eduication, and strengthen efforts to provide comprehensive support to children and families. In addition to these provisions, new school finance funding would be used to incentivize school districts to offer pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds. It would all be financed by new, progressive revenues.
In Missouri, Governor Jay Nixon proposes to expand childcare assistance to more than 2,800 children with a $6.3 million funding increase. These funds would allow families who qualify for childcare assistance (at up to 122 percent of the federal poverty level) to continue to receive “transitional childcare” assistance until they earn up to 175 percent of the poverty level.
Minimum Wage
Entmacher also reports that in Maryland, lawmakers will introduce a bill to gradually raise the Maryland minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.00 per hour, set the tipped minimum wage at 70 percent of the minimum wage, and index both wages to keep pace with inflation. The increase would boost the wages of full-time, full-year minimum wage workers by $5,500—enough to lift a family of three above the poverty line, as the wage did historically in the 1960s and ’70s. It’s especially welcome news for women, who are 60 percent of the state’s minimum wage workers.
In New York, Governor Cuomo’s budget proposes to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 per hour and increase the minimum wage for tipped food service workers from $5 to $6.03 per hour in 2013, though these wages would not be indexed for inflation. A new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute and the National Employment Law Project finds that more than 1.5 million New Yorkers—the majority of them women—would get a raise under Governor Cuomo’s proposal. Lawmakers in a number of other states, ranging from Connecticut to Hawaii, are considering minimum wage increases as well.
And disappointing, but not unexpected, news from New Jersey, where Governor Christie issued a conditional veto of a bill raising New Jersey’s minimum wage. Sponsors of the bill are proposing to raise and index the minimum wage through a constitutional amendment.
Paid Sick and Family Leave
Family Values @ Work reports that in the midst of what the CDC is calling the worst flu season in a decade, this week has seen the launch of paid sick days campaigns in Philadelphia (where 200,000 workers do not have paid sick time), Massachusetts (where 1 million workers do not have paid sick time), and in Maryland(where 700,000 people do not have paid sick time.) City Council members in Portland, Oregon were preparing for a hearing on paid sick days as this post was being drafted, to be followed soon after by a vote.
Other states considering paid sick leave legislation include Washington State and Vermont, where the attorney general is considering paid sick days as part of a comprehensive equal pay agenda, and the state legislature is exploring legislation as well.
At the federal level, the Healthy Families Act would allow workers in businesses with fifteen or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year—to recover from their own illnesses, access preventive care or provide care for a sick family member.
You can check out the stories of workers who were fired because they got sick in Sick and Fired.
Hunger
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced legislation based on the Farm Bill that passed the Senate in 2012, which included a $4.49 billion cut to SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow has indicated that the bill will be marked up in committee as soon as possible. Initial findings from the Health Impact Project are that these cuts would result in a monthly loss of benefits of: $76 for households with an elderly person; $69 for households with a disabled person; $67 for households headed by a single female; $68 for households with a veteran; and $68 for households that are food insecure. The average recipient receives just $133 per month ($4.46 per day), so the cut is significant. The House version of the Farm Bill in the last Congress cut $16 billion from SNAP, and the new analysis projects that between 1.7 million and 5 million people would lose their benefits under this proposal.
Meanwhile, a new brief from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) details the research demonstrating how SNAP not only reduces hunger but also improves healthcare, including: fewer hospitalizations for young children, better dietary quality and obesity prevention, and improved economic outcomes for adults who received SNAP during childhood.
You can keep up with the Farm Bill and help protect SNAP here.
Event
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Learning from the Past, Planning for the Future, Thursday, February 7, 10–11:30 am, Center for American Progress, Washington, DC. An honest discussion about what we have learned about TANF’s successes and failures and how we can apply those lessons to develop and obtain support for policy reforms that put poverty-reduction back at the center of this income assistance program. Check out the panel—these people know their stuff. When the event is over, you will know more about TANF than ninety-nine in 100 legislators in Congress.
Get involved
Clips and other resources (compiled with James Cersonsky)
In the Schools of Philadelphia,” Jake Blumgart
Alt-Labor,” Josh Eidelson
What it means to be young and homeless in the US,” Melissa Harris-Perry [VIDEO]
Obama’s inaugural message about homeless children,” Melissa Harris-Perry [VIDEO]
Jewish Platform for a Just Farm Bill,” Jewish Farm Bill Working Group
Impoverished Mom Lost in Milwaukee Family Court,” Anna Limontas Salisbury
Notable studies (summaries written by James Cersonsky)
Living on the Edge: Financial Insecurity and Policies to Rebuild Prosperity in America,” Jennifer Brooks and Kasey Wiedrich, Corporation for Enterprise Development. With limited savings, high debt and bad credit, people have a harder time investing in long-term assets like homes, business, or higher education. This report exposes the expanding national low-asset crisis. There are three times as many households that are liquid asset poor (43.9 percent nationally)—defined as a family of four with less than $5,763 in savings—as there are income poor households.
Since last year, most states saw decreases in the number of employers that offered health insurance, the percentage of workers who have or participate in employer-based retirement plans, and homeownership—and an increase in the percentage of borrowers overdue for 90 days or more on credit payments. People of color tend to fare worse on measures like these than whites. While the percentage of uninsured children decreased nationally, the percentage of uninsured parents increased in half of states. The authors propose a range of policies to bolster assets: improved TANF and SNAP benefits that lift or even eliminate asset limits; the strengthening of earned income tax credits and child and dependent care tax credits; protections against predatory lending and foreclosure; and improved access to health insurance.
Strengthening Social Security: What Do Americans Want?” Jasmine V. Tucker, Virginia P. Reno, and Thomas N. Bethell, National Academy of Social Insurance. Social Security provides retirement security for nearly all Americans—a third of elderly beneficiaries rely on it for more than 90 percent of their income, and two-thirds rely on it for more than half of their income. The program kept more than 21 million Americans out of poverty in 2011.
The authors of this report show that, despite Congressional threats to benefits through policies like the chained Consumer Price Index, people of all income levels and generational cohorts support greater financing for Social Security, and increased payroll tax contributions as a particular revenue stream. In one telling stat, 82 percent of survey respondents say that it’s critical to preserve Social Security for future generations, even if it means increasing Social Security taxes on working Americans; this figure rises to 87 percent in the case of increasing taxes on wealthier Americans. Nearly three quarters of respondents would prefer a policy package that includes eliminating the cap on earnings taxed for Social Security, gradually raising worker and employer contributions over the next twenty years, raising the basic minimum benefit for retirees, and increasing the program’s cost-of-living adjustment to account for inflation.
Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax System in All 50 States”, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The rich owe a huge debt of gratitude to regressive tax codes for helping them get richer. In nearly every state, low- and middle-income taxpayers pay a larger share of their income than those in the top 20 percent and top 1 percent. According to calculations in this report, effective tax rates—which combine state and local income, property, sales and excise taxes—are 11.1 percent for the bottom quintile, 9.4 percent for the middle quintile, and 5.6 percent for the top 1 percent.
In Washington, Florida, South Dakota, Texas, Illinois, Tennessee, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Alabama and Indiana, the bottom 20 percent pay as much as six times greater a share of their income than those at the top. Income taxes are the most progressive overall, but property, sales and excise taxes take a significantly larger toll on lower income taxpayers. Relieving the burden is a challenge: of the twenty-four states (in addition to DC) that have enacted earned-income tax credits to reduce the working poor’s tax share, nine still hit their poorest taxpayers with a higher effective tax rate than any other income group.
Vital Statistics
US poverty (less than $17,916 for a family of three): 46.2 million people, 15.1 percent.
Children in poverty: 16.1 million, 22 percent of all children, including 39 percent of African-American children and 34 percent of Latino children. Poorest age group in country.
Deep poverty (less than $11,510 for a family of four): 20.4 million people, 1 in 15 Americans, including more than 15 million women and children.
People who would have been in poverty if not for Social Security, 2011: 67.6 million (program kept 21.4 million people out of poverty).
Gender gap, 2011: Women 34 percent more likely to be poor than men.
Gender gap, 2010: Women 29 percent more likely to be poor than men.
Twice the poverty level (less than $46,042 for a family of four): 106 million people, more than 1 in 3 Americans.
People in the US experiencing poverty by age 65: Roughly half.
Jobs in the US paying less than $34,000 a year: 50 percent.
Jobs in the US paying below the poverty line for a family of four, less than $23,000 annually: 25 percent.
Poverty-level wages, 2011: 28 percent of workers.
Low-income families that were working in 2011: More than 70 percent.
Families receiving cash assistance, 1996: 68 for every 100 families living in poverty.
Families receiving cash assistance, 2010: 27 for every 100 families living in poverty.
Food stamp recipients with no other cash income: 6.5 million people.
People experiencing homelessness on any given night, US: 643,067.
Children living on streets or in homeless shelters, US: 1.6 million, 42 percent under age 6.
Annual cost of child poverty nationwide: $550 billion.
Quotes of the Week
“Your typical homeless person in America today is a child, it’s not an adult. It’s an 11- or 12-year-old child. And the key issue for these children is education. Not having a home destabilizes your family, it destabilizes your health, it destabilizes your education. Homeless people move at least two or three times a year, each one of those is an educational setback. If we don’t realize this isn’t just a housing issue—it’s truly an education issue, a children’s issue—it’s an issue that we’re going to pay ten or twenty times more for if we don’t address it.”
   —Ralph da Costa Nunez, CEO, Institute for Children, Poverty, & Homelessness, on Melissa Harris Perry
“At the bottom of this homeless crisis is the employment crisis that we still have in this country. Individuals and families are homeless for the most part because they don’t have employment or they don’t have jobs that pay enough to pay for rent or buy a home. So we need to address the fundamental issue of employment.”
   ——Bob Herbert, Distinguished Fellow, Demos, on Melissa Harris Perry

Shocking Numbers That Show The Media Is Lying To You About Unemployment In America

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Did you know that the percentage of the U.S. labor force that is employed has continually been falling since 2006 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics?  Did you know that the increase in the number of Americans "not in the labor force" during Barack Obama's first four years in the White House was more than three times greater than the increase in the number of Americans "not in the labor force" during the entire decade of the 1980s?  The mainstream media would have us believe that 157,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in January.  Based on that news, the Dow broke the 14,000 barrier for the first time since October 2007.  But if you actually look at the "non-seasonally adjusted" numbers, the number of Americans with a job actually decreased by 1,446,000 between December and January.  But nowhere in the mainstream media did you hear that the U.S. economy lost more than 1.4 million jobs between December and January.  It is amazing the things that you can find out when you actually take the time to look at the hard numbers instead of just listening to the media spin.  Back in 2007, more than 146 million Americans were employed.  Today, only 141.6 million Americans are employed even though our population has grown steadily since then.  When the government and the media tell you that we are in a "recovery" and that unemployment is lower than it was a couple of years ago, I encourage you to dig deeper.  The truth is that even the government's own numbers tell us that the percentage of the U.S. labor force that is employed continues to fall and that the U.S. economy is heading into a recession.  The Obama administration and the media have been lying to you about unemployment and about the true condition of our economy.  After you see the numbers that I have compiled in this article, I think that you will agree with me.

First of all, let's take a look at the percentage of the civilian labor force that has been employed over the past several years.  These numbers come directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  As you can see, this is a number that has been steadily falling since 2006...

2006: 63.1

2007: 63.0

2008: 62.2

2009: 59.3

2010: 58.5

2011: 58.4

In January, only 57.9 percent of the civilian labor force was employed.

Do the numbers above represent a positive trend or a negative trend?

Even a 2nd grader could answer that question.

So how in the world can the Obama administration and the mainstream media claim that the employment picture is getting better and that we are in a "recovery"?

But most Americans believe what they are told.  It is almost as if we are in some kind of a "matrix" where reality is defined by the corporate-controlled propaganda that is relentlessly pumped into our brains.

The only way that the government has been able to show a declining unemployment rate is by dumping massive numbers of Americans into the "not in the labor force" category.

Just check out how the number of Americans "not in the labor force" has absolutely skyrocketed in recent years...

2006: 77,387,000

2007: 78,743,000

2008: 79,501,000

2009: 81,659,000

2010: 83,941,000

2011: 86,001,000

In January, there were supposedly 89,868,000 Americans that were at least 16 years of age that were not in the labor force.

That number has risen by more than 8 million since Barack Obama first entered the White House, and that is highly unusual, because the number of Americans "not in the labor force" only increased by 2,518,000 during the entire decade of the 1980s.

You sure can get the numbers to look more "favorable" if you pretend that millions upon millions of American workers simply "don't want a job" any longer.  The truth is that if the labor force participation rate was at the same level it was at when Barack Obama was first elected, the official unemployment rate would be well above 10 percent.

But that wouldn't do at all, would it?  7.9 percent sounds so much nicer.

And of course even if you do have a job that does not mean that you are doing okay.

If you can believe it, in America today 41 percent of all workers make $20,000 a year or less.

To me, that is a mind blowing statistic.  It would be incredibly challenging for anyone to live on $20,000 a year, much less try to support a family.

If you live in Washington D.C. or New York City and you have a "good job" working for the establishment, you may not realize it, but there are tens of millions of American families that are really hurting out there.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either "poor" or "low income" at this point, and most of those people actually do have jobs.

For much more on the "working poor" in the United States, please see my previous article entitled "35 Statistics About The Working Poor In America That Will Blow Your Mind".

If something is not done, the middle class will continue to disappear and poverty in America will continue to explode.

In a previous article, I noted that during Obama's first term, the number of Americans on food stamps increased by an average of about 11,000 per day.

How bad do things have to get before people realize that we are living through a nightmare?

Sadly, most Americans still have faith in the system.

Most Americans are still convinced that our politicians will somehow find a way to turn things around.

Most Americans will gather around their television sets this weekend and watch the Super Bowl and laugh at all the funny commercials without even thinking about how America is literally falling apart all around them.

But there is one group of Americans that is acutely aware of how bad things have really gotten.  Small businesses have traditionally been the primary engine of job growth in this country, but right now small business owners all over the nation are facing a tremendous crisis.

Millions of small businesses are on the verge of extinction, and yet our politicians just continue to pile on more taxes, more rules and more regulations.

A recent Gallup poll found that 61 percent of all small business owners in America are "worried about the potential cost of healthcare", and that an astounding 30 percent of all small business owners in America are not hiring and fear that they will go out of business within the next 12 months.

In a previous article entitled "We Are Witnessing The Death Of Small Business In America", I detailed how small businesses in America are being systematically wiped out.  Small businesses are dying all around us, and the number of new small businesses continues to decline.

According to economist Tim Kane, the following is how the decline in the number of startup jobs per one thousand Americans breaks down by presidential administration...

Bush Sr.: 11.3

Clinton: 11.2

Bush Jr.: 10.8

Obama: 7.8

Is that a good trend or a bad trend?

All of this is so simple that even the family pet should be able to figure it out, and yet most Americans seem oblivious to all of this.  They just keep gobbling up the mainstream media propaganda and they just continue to go out and wildly spend money.

It is almost as if we didn't learn any lessons from 2008.

Even while household spending in Europe has moderated, household spending in the United States continues to soar.  Just check out the chart in this article.

And guess what?  The infamous "no money down mortgages" are back.  If we wait long enough, perhaps "interest only mortgages" will make a comeback as well.

Unfortunately, I am afraid that time is running out.  we have been living in the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world, and it is only a matter of time until it bursts.

2008 was just a "hiccup" compared to what is coming.  Our politicians and the Federal Reserve were able to keep the house of cards from completely crashing down back then, but they are not going to be able to avert the economic horror show that is rapidly approaching.

I hope that you are getting prepared.  Back in 2008, millions of Americans suddenly lost their jobs, and because many of them did not have any savings, many of them suddenly lost their homes.  One of the most important things that you can do to prepare for the coming crisis is to build up an emergency fund.  If things suddenly go bad, you don't want to lose your house and everything that you have always worked for.

In addition, anything that you can do to become more self-sufficient and more independent of the system is a good thing, because the system is failing.  The years ahead are going to be much more chaotic than what we are experiencing right now, and when the next crisis strikes you will be very thankful for the time and the energy that you put into preparing.

15 Signs That You Better Get Prepared For The Recession Of 2013

You better get ready, because there are a whole host of signs that economic trouble is on the horizon.  U.S. economic growth slipped into negative territory during the fourth quarter of 2012.  That was the first time that has happened in more than three years.  Several important measures of manufacturing activity have also contracted in recent weeks, and consumer confidence is way down.  There is a tremendous amount of economic pessimism in the air right now, and Americans are pulling enormous amounts of money out of our banks and they are buying up precious metals at unprecedented rates.  Meanwhile, our "leaders" seem very confused about what is happening.  For example, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continues to insist that we are "in a recovery", and some other Democrats are calling the latest GDP numbers "the best-looking contraction in U.S. GDP you'll ever see".  On the other hand, the Federal Reserve says that economic growth has "paused" in recent months, and therefore a continuation of their latest quantitative easing scheme is necessary.  Well, no matter how hard any of them try to spin the numbers, there is no way that they are going to get them to look good.  Despite four years of outrageous "stimulus" spending by the federal government, despite four years of record low interest rates, and despite four years of unprecedented money printing by the Federal Reserve, the U.S. economy continues to perform miserably.  Later this year the federal government will probably finally acknowledge that we have entered another recession, even though the truth is that if the federal government used honest numbers they would indicate that we are already in one.  In any event, nobody should have ever expected that our debt-fueled prosperity would last forever.  When the debt bubble that we have been living in completely bursts, a "recession" will be the least of our worries. Hopefully this little stretch of false economic hope that we have been living in will last for a little while longer.  I don't think that too many people are very eager to repeat the horrible economic pain that we experienced back in 2008 and 2009.  Unfortunately, we never fully recovered from that last downturn and now the incredibly foolish decisions that our "leaders" continue to make have made another major economic downturn inevitable.

Personally, I would very much prefer for 2013 to be a year of peace and prosperity for America.  But at this point there appears to be a great deal of downward momentum for the economy.

The following are 15 signs that you better get prepared for the Obama recession of 2013...

#1 The mainstream media was absolutely shocked when it was announced that U.S. GDP actually contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 2012.  This was the first contraction that the official numbers have shown in more than three years.  But of course the truth is that the official numbers always make things appear better than they really are.  According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, U.S. GDP growth has actually been continuously negative all the way back to 2005 once you account "for distortions in government inflation usage and methodological changes that have resulted in a built-in upside bias to official reporting."

#2 For the entire year of 2012, official U.S. GDP growth was only about 1.5%.  According to Art Cashin, every time economic growth has fallen that low (below 2 percent annually) the U.S. economy has always ended up going into a recession.

#3 According to the Conference Board, consumer confidence in the United States has hit its lowest level in more than a year.

#4 For the week ending January 26th, initial claims for unemployment rose to 368,000.  In future weeks, watch to see if it goes above 400,000.  If we hit that level, that will be a sign of real trouble for the economy.

#5 During the first full week of January, an astounding $114 billion was pulled out of U.S. banks.  That is the largest amount that we have seen moved out of U.S. banks in one week since 2001.

#6 The U.S. Mint was on pace to sell more silver eagles during the first month of 2013 than it did during the entire year of 2007.  Why is so much silver being sold all of a sudden?

#7 The payroll tax hike that went into effect in January has reduced the paychecks of average American workers by about $100 a month.

#8 Several important measures of manufacturing activity along the east coast missed expectations by a huge margin in January.  The following summary is from a recent Zero Hedge article...

So much for the latest "recovery." While everyone continued to forget that in the New Normal markets do not reflect the underlying economy in the least, and that the all time highs in the Russell 2000 should indicate that the US economy has never been better, things in reality took a deep dive for the worse, at least according to the Empire State Fed, the Philly Fed, and now the Richmond Fed, all of which missed expectations by a huge margin, and are now deep in contraction territory. Moments ago, the Richmond Fed reported that the Manufacturing Index imploded from a 9 in November, 5 in December and missed expectations of a 5 print at -12: this was the biggest miss to expectations since September 2009.
#9 An astounding 33 percent of all "subprime student loans" are at least 90 days past due.  Back in 2007, that number was only at 24 percent.  Could this be evidence that the student loan debt bubble is beginning to burst?

#10 Time Inc. has just announced that it will be eliminating hundreds of jobs.

#11 Blockbuster recently announced that they are closing hundreds of stores and eliminating about 3,000 jobs.

#12 Toy maker Hasbro has announced that the size of their workforce will be reduced by about 10 percent.

#13 According to a new Pew Research study that was just released, one out of every seven adults in the United States is financially supporting their kids and their parents at the same time.  Pew Research is calling it "the Sandwich Generation".

#14 According to one recent Gallup poll, 65 percent of all Americans believe that 2013 will be a year of "economic difficulty", and 50 percent of all Americans believe that the "best days" of America are now behind us.

#15 According to a different Gallup poll, Americans are now more pessimistic about where the U.S. economy will be five years from now than Gallup has ever recorded before.

So what is Barack Obama doing about all of this?

Not much.

Actually, he is shutting down his much ballyhooed "Council on Jobs and Competitiveness".  It last convened more than a year ago on Jan. 17th, 2012, and apparently Obama does not feel that it is needed any longer.

Of course we all know that it was just a political stunt to begin with.

Sadly, the truth is that both parties have been leading us down a road toward economic oblivion.  The past four years under Obama have been absolutely nightmarish, and even though the Republicans have been in control of the House for the last couple of years they have done very little to even slow him down.

For much more on the decline of the economy over the past four years, please see this article: "37 Statistics Which Show How Four Years Of Obama Have Wrecked The U.S. Economy".

Yes, I tend to criticize Obama's economic policies a lot, and rightfully so, but neither political party is willing to tell the American people the truth.

40 years ago, the total amount of debt in the U.S. economic system was less than 2 trillion dollars.

Today, the total amount of debt in the U.S. economic system has grown to more than 55 trillion dollars.

It hasn't mattered which party has occupied the White House or which party has been in control of Congress.  The debt bubble that we have been living in has just continued to grow.

And all bubbles eventually pop.

The mainstream media is endlessly obsessed with the little fights that the Republicans and the Democrats are having, but they never talk about the bigger picture.

The prosperity that we are enjoying today is the result of the biggest debt binge in the history of the world.

We have stolen a giant mountain of money from our children and our grandchildren and we have destroyed their futures.

People can debate about whether the next "recession" has already started or not, but the truth is that what we are experiencing now is nothing compared to what is coming.

In the end, we will pay a great price for our decades of foolishness.

The U.S. economy is going to completely collapse, and the last few years have only been the very beginning of that process.