On Friday the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) closed and sold off four more banks, bringing the total shuttered this year to 84. The FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund paid out $358 million to enable the transactions to take place, with additional losses being borne by the failed banks’ new owners. Through 2010 the FDIC has paid out $76 billion and the total is likely to exceed $100 billion by the end of this year.
The losses resulted from the FDIC making good on the banks’ bad investments, mostly related to real estate, that went sour during the recession. Under current rules, depositors were made whole if their accounts were valued at $250,000 or less.
The banks just closed were Decatur First Bank in Decatur, Georgia; Community Capital Bank in Jonesboro, Georgia; Old Harbor Bank in Clearwater, Florida; and Community Banks of Greenwood, Colorado. The banks picking up the remains included State Bank and Fidelity Bank in Georgia, First United Bancorp in Florida, and Bank Midwest out of Kansas City, Missouri. Georgia now leads the country in failed banks during the recession with a total of 21, while Florida has had 12 banks closed so far. More than 400 banks have been closed by the FDIC since 2007, compared to an average of four bank closings per year prior to the start of the recession.
In moving to combat in-state welfare fraud, Michigan is requiring food stamp recipients to provide information on their assets to determine whether they should continue to qualify for benefits. Under the new rules launched earlier this month, current recipients are obligated to report the values on their homes, vehicles, stocks, bonds, and even lottery winnings. Residents with $5,000 in liquid assets or driving a vehicle worth over $15,000 may no longer qualify for benefits. So far, the state has identified about 15,000 people who could lose their food stamp benefits.
Although the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — commonly known as food stamps — is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, states distribute the benefits and have the authority to make certain decisions on eligibility. (In Michigan, the program is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, [FAP — Food Assistance Program] and is administered by the Department of Human Services [DHS], which has offices in every county of Michigan.) Michigan’s policy change is a shift from the trend for states to request information only on recipients’ income. Texas and Indiana are among other states that consider assets, while Oregon and New York are among those who check only income when determining eligibility for the program. As the U.S. economy has continued to decay, eligibility requirements for food stamps have loosened, with 35 states now having abolished asset tests for food stamp recipients.
The prediction by the Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI) that the United States is headed into another recession was greeted by a rise in the stock market from 1,074 on the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index on Tuesday, October 4, to 1,238 on Friday, October 21, a gain of 15 percent in just 13 days.
This sudden rise happened in the face of ECRI’s spokesman Laksman Achuthan’s emphatic forecast that “it’s going to get a lot worse … you haven’t seen anything yet.” Furthermore, Achuthan said that there is nothing policymakers can do about it, that the decline is just going to have to run its course.
Jon Markman, a stock market watcher and skeptic who writes for MarketWatch, asked Achuthan if this time his prediction might be wrong. Achuthan isn’t backing off one bit. Noting that his proprietary blend of various leading economic indicators has never failed in the past, he wasn’t surprised at the market’s rise following his company’s announcement, and said that the rise even confirmed his bearish call.
There are now about 2.6 million federal employees in the United States, including postal workers. Of these, 302,000 work in the D.C. area. With these employees earning over $100,000 a year, that’s more than enough to make metropolitan Washington, D.C., the most prosperous boom town in the United States.
According to the Washington Post’s Federal Eye:
Federal employees whose compensation averages more than $126,000 and the nation’s greatest concentration of lawyers helped Washington edge out San Jose as the wealthiest U.S. metropolitan area, government data show.
The U.S. capital has swapped top spots with Silicon Valley, according to recent Census Bureau figures, with the typical household in the Washington metro area earning $84,523 last year. The national median income for 2010 was $50,046.
The figures demonstrate how the nation’s political and financial classes are prospering as the economy struggles with unemployment above nine percent and thousands of Americans protest in the streets against income disparity, said Kevin Zeese, director of Prosperity Agenda, a Baltimore-based advocacy group trying to narrow the divide between rich and poor.
JBS CEO Art Thompson's weekly video news update for October 24-30, 2011.
At a news conference in Washington yesterday, a group of U.S. solar panel makers accused China of dumping Chinese-made solar panels on the U.S. market and asked the government for protection by raising tariffs on the offenders. Executives from SolarWorld, which makes its panels in Oregon, were at the conference along with both Oregon Senators.
Said SolarWorld President Gordon Brinser, his company “can compete with anyone in the world [but] illegal subsidies in China [are allowing] the Chinese solar industry to come in and gut and own the U.S. solar industry.” Because the alleged dumping has caused prices to decline, it has put several panel makers into financial difficulty, and was a proximate cause of the disintegration of Solyndra. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) claimed that because of the dumping of panels at below-market prices, “the American solar industry has been collapsing.” Part of the reason is that the Chinese government has been extending low-interest loans to Chinese panel makers, which Wyden called “cheating,” thus allowing them to offer panels for sale below the production costs of U.S. makers.
The group wants the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission to impose a duty on all panels imported from China sufficient to bring the price back up to where the U.S. makers can be competitive, and profitable, again.
While high unemployment persists and the U.S. economy remains stubbornly flat, Washington, D.C. now hails as the nation’s wealthiest metropolitan area, according to new data from the Census Bureau. Dethroning Silicon Valley from its royal chair, the hometown of Congress and the White House is flourishing, as the median household income for Washington residents stood at $84,523 in 2010, when the nation’s average household income was $50,046. The data shows that San Jose, home of Apple and Cisco Systems, held an average income of $83,944 in 2010, falling from $84,483 in 2009, and now riding on the coattails of America’s political stronghold.
Federal worker compensation last year averaged $126,369 (including healthcare and other benefits), a more than $3,500 increase from 2009, and as of June, the D.C. area had 170,467 federal employees. According to a Bloomberg analysis, the nearly $35,000 disparity in income largely attributes to a high concentration of lawyers and federal workers whose earnings far exceed $100,000 a year.
The data illustrates how the political elite continues to thrive — while overall poverty in the area remains high — as the U.S. economy remains stagnant and unemployment maintains its 9 percent mark. "There’s a gap that’s isolating Washington from the reality of the rest of the country," asserted Kevin Zeese, director of Prosperity Agenda, an advocacy group in Baltimore. "They just get more and more out of touch."
As unpatriotic and insane as it may sound, an economic depression may be the best thing that could happen to America in a long time. It will force Americans to get back to the basics of life, and rebuild their lives on a foundation of productive work and sensible spending. We should not forget that the Pilgrims came to these shores when there was nothing here but wilderness, and it was through their hard work and faith in their Creator that they started to build this great nation.
Of this miraculous process, William Bradford wrote: “Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by his hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone to many, yea in some sort to our whole nation. Let the glorious name of Jehova have all the praise.”
Lee Eisenberg wrote in now defunct Portfolio magazine (March 2009): “The bottom line here is that things that truly matter in life do not come with daunting price tags attached. Sure, we all need food, health care, and shelter from the storm. But other than that, we don’t need an especially big Number to buy that which we ‘can’t live without,’ things that are ‘bedrock important.’… To sell a house we love is no small lifestyle relapse. But if the tradeoff is freedom gained — the opportunity for creative expression, doing good for others, keeping loved ones connected — well, I call that comfort, even if it’s cold comfort, in this, the winter of our discontent.”
Over the course of the last few weeks, the Occupy Wall Street protests have increased in size and volume, and have been given generous attention by a sympathetic mainstream media. A number of media outlets have attempted to present the demonstrators as merely disgruntled Americans who are unhappy with the current plight of the American economy, despite evidence that the protests have been staged by Marxists, socialists, unions, and other left-wing organizations with intents greater than merely bringing light to the struggle of the average American. For those behind the demonstrations, though not necessarily the demonstrators, the goal is in fact to bring about global government.
Prior to the start of the Occupy Wall Streets, which began on October 15, the UNPA Campaign — the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly — reports that a group of leftists “issued a manifesto that includes a strong call for global democracy and, in particular, democratic rule over the international financial system.”
UNPA is a group that describes itself as “a global network of parliamentarians and non-governmental organizations advocating citizen’s representation at the United Nations.” It might be worth noting that the group receives much of its funds from the Ford Foundation, whose mission indicates that its finances will be used “to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement.” As noted by former board member Henry Ford II at the time of his resignation from the board, however, those endeavors amount to nothing more than anti-capitalist leftism. In his resignation letter, Ford wrote, "In effect, the Foundation is a creature of capitalism, a statement that, I'm sure, would be shocking to many professional staff people in the field of philanthropy.
According to the Associated Press for Oct. 20, more than 100,000 people assembled in front of the Greek parliament yesterday to vent their opposition to the proposed austerity legislation. The AP added of today's scene:
Protesters gathered by the tens of thousand[s] outside the Greek parliament Thursday, ahead of a vote on intensely unpopular new measures needed to secure continued payment of international rescue loans that have so far prevented the country from sliding into bankruptcy.
It is the second day of a general strike which has essentially shut down the country. GSEE, Greece's largest private-sector labor union, announced that there was 100-percent participation in strikes against shipping, refineries, and transport, and 90-percent participation in strikes against construction, banks, power companies, phone companies, postal service, and water companies. Municipal garbage pickup was delayed, and hospitals, courts, and schools were also affected.
Some rioters threatened the Greek parliament building itself, and a few broke through a police barrier and ran to the tomb of the unknown solider in front of the parliament. In Thessaloniki (biblical Thessalonica), the second largest city in Greece, protesters vandalized shops which remained open in spite of the strike.