Who Cares About the “Wealth Gap” if Everyone is Richer?


Source: ActivistPost.com
Joe Jarvis
June 22, 2017

How many successful people can there be? It seems like, after every article you read these days, the author bio talks about a book they have written, an invention they created, a prestigious award or some other indicator of great success. Yet I’ve never really heard of most of them.

I used to get pangs of jealousy when I would see descriptions like that of successful people; it almost felt like there were a limited number of “success” spots on planet earth, and if they were taking one up, it made it that much less likely for me to get one.

But it’s not true. There is no limit to the number of successful people that can exist, especially since everyone has a slightly different idea of success.

And in the same vein, there is no limit to how many wealthy people there can be. Wealth is not a zero-sum game, there is not some amount of wealth out there that once it is grabbed, is gone. Anyone can create wealth. Growing a garden is a great place to start creating the necessities to live and giving yourself a little food shortage insurance plan.

When people say the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, that is a huge misrepresentation of what is really happening, even if the rich have far more compared to the poor.

For example, let’s use the amount of healthy food that can be purchased as an indicator of wealth. If a “poor” person could once only afford 10 pounds of healthy food per week, and a “rich” person could afford 100 pounds, the rich person is ten times richer than the poor person. But now suppose a poor person can afford 100 pounds of healthy food per week, and a rich person can afford 2,000 pounds.

True, the wealth gap has doubled from 1-10 to 1-20, yet the poor person is living as richly as only the wealthy could in years past.

This is the true nature of the wealth gap. Almost everyone is better off these days. The gap doesn’t matter as much as the minimum standard of living.

The classic example which always comes to mind for me is of President Calvin Coolidge who lived in the White House fewer than 100 years ago. One of the most powerful people on Earth watched helplessly as his son died of an infected blister from playing tennis.

In that sense, everyone living in America today has a higher standard of living than the President and his family had 90 years ago. Advancements in medicine, technology, information, and production have risen the standard of living for everyone.

This chart shows the exponential nature in which people are being lifted out of poverty.

Poverty has not yet been entirely eradicated, but at this pace, as long as those in power don’t thrust the world back into the Dark Ages, it is only a matter of time until Earth is basically free from poverty.

And at that point, when all needs are being met, what does it matter if the richest person has 10, 50, or a thousand times more wealth than the poorest?

Options and a Backup Plan = Freedom

There was a time when the options for a person to create enough wealth to live were very few.

Do you want to live in…

Continue Reading At: ActivistPost.com

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Record “Wealth” in America: 72% of US businesses are NOT profitable


Source: Sovereignman.com
Simon Black
June 12, 2017

The Federal Reserve in the United States just released a new report showing that “Total Household Wealth” in the United States has reached a record $94.8 trillion.

That’s an impressive figure.

Even more impressive is that Total Household Wealth has increased by $40 trillion since the lows of the Great Recession in 2009.

No doubt there’s probably a multitude of central bankers and bureaucrats toasting their success in having engineered such magnificent prosperity.

And it’s certainly an achievement worth celebrating. As long as you don’t look too closely at the data.

Total Household Wealth is exactly what it sounds like– the total net worth of every person in the United States, from Bill Gates down to the youngest newborn baby.

So when you add up all the 330+ million folks in the Land of the Free and tally up their combined net worth, the total is $94 trillion.

The thing is that the VAST majority of that wealth, especially the incredible growth over the last 8 years, has been from increases in just two asset classes: real estate and the stock market.

In fact, stocks and real estate alone account for roughly 2/3 of the wealth increase since 2009.

I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Now, simultaneously, we see plenty of other interesting data, also published by the Federal Reserve and US federal government.

Both the Fed and Census Bureau, for example, tell us that over 80% of businesses in the US are “nonemployer” companies, i.e. businesses which only employ one person (the owner), and often provide his/her primary source of income.

Yet according to the Federal Reserve, only 35% of these small businesses are profitable. Most are operating at a loss.

In other words, only 35% of the companies which make up 80% of American businesses are profitable.

You’re probably already doing the arithmetic– this means that a whopping 72% of all US businesses are NOT profitable.

That hardly sounds like record wealth to me.

Shifting gears, there’s the little factoid that an astounding 40% of young Americans are living with their parents– the highest percentage in the last 75 years.

And who can blame them considering student debt in the Land of the Free also hit a record $1.4 trillion three months ago, more than double the amount since the Great Recession.

Speaking of record debt, US credit card debt passed a record $1 trillion, and total US consumer credit hit a record $3.8 trillion last month.

Again, all of this hardly seems like ‘wealth’ to me.

Then there’s the issue of wages, which have remained essentially flat since the 2009 Great Recession if you adjust for inflation.

According to the US Department of Labor, inflation-adjusted wages, aka “real hourly compensation” in the US fell an annualized 0.9% last quarter, and fell a dismal 5.6% in the previous quarter.

Adjusted for inflation, the average American isn’t making any more money.

Once again, this is a pitiful excuse for ‘wealth.’

American businesses aren’t more productive either.

The same Labor Department report shows that productivity in the Land of the Free was flat in the first quarter of this year.

And productivity actually declined in 2016– something that hasn’t happened in at least the last 50 years.

Not to mention total economic growth in the Land of the Free has been pretty pitiful, logging a pathetic 1.6% last year.

And GDP growth in the first quarter of 2017 was just 1.2% on an annualized basis.

The US economy has exceed hasn’t surpassed 3% growth in more than 10-years, and it’s only happen two times so far in this millennium.

Seriously? This is “wealth”?

Look, I get it. Houses are ‘worth’ more than they used to be, and the stock market is much higher.

But these effects are heavily influenced by the trillions of dollars that was conjured out of thin air by the Federal Reserve.

ExxonMobil may be the most telling example.

In early September 2008, just prior to the financial crisis, Exxon had recently reported revenues of $72 billion, with $11.1 billion in net operating cashflow.

For the first quarter of 2017 the company reported revenues of $61 billion and net operating cashflow of $8 billion.

Plus, ExxonMobil managed to add nearly $20 billion in debt to its balance sheet over that same period.

So over 8-years, Exxon is making less money and has more debt. Yet its stock price is actually HIGHER.

More broadly, 66% of the largest companies in the US that have given estimates of their earnings for next quarter have issued “negative guidance”.

Companies expect to make less money. But stocks are near all-time highs.

Does this make any sense? Is that also wealth?

No.

This is nothing more than the result of paper money that has been created by central bankers, allocated to a tiny financial elite, and dumped into the stock market.

It’s the same with real estate. Sure, prices are higher. But it’s not because of fundamentals.

In terms of population, there’s only been a 7% increase in the number of households in the United States since 2009.

There’s been a commensurate increase in the supply of homes as well.

So in terms of supply/demand fundamentals, the average price nationwide shouldn’t be that much higher.

But take a look at this chart, courtesy of the Federal Reserve.

The red line shows interest rates, which have been generally falling since 1990. The blue line shows home prices, which have been rising like crazy since 2012.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to spot the correlation: record low interest rates mean higher home prices.

This isn’t wealth.

It’s just phony paper.

And as the Great Recession showed in late 2008, phony paper wealth can go ‘poof’ in an instant.

With that in mind, it may be time to consider taking some of that paper wealth off the table and setting it aside for a rainy day.

Read More At: SovereignMan.com
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About the Author

Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, and founder of Sovereign Man. His is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom, make more money, keep more of it, and protect it all from bankrupt governments.

Prosperity = Abundant Work + Low Cost of Living

Prosperity.jpg
Source: OfTwoMinds.com
Charles Hugh Smith
January 3, 2017

An economy that only serves the prosperity of the protected top 5% is an economy doomed to rising inequality, stagnation and widespread social discontent.

If we seek a coherent context for the new year, we would do well to start with the foundations of widespread prosperity. While the economy is a vast, complex machine, the sources of widespread prosperity are not that complicated: abundant work and a low cost of living.

When work is abundant, there are opportunities for many skill levels, and employers must bid for the most productive, reliable workers. This supports wages and widespread employment.

When the cost of living is low, even low-wage households can not only get by but put a little aside if they are prudent and thrifty.

This may seem obvious, but the conditions required for work to be abundant and the cost of living to be low are not so obvious. For work to be abundant, it must be easy to start a business, easy to operate the new business, easy to make a profit so the business can survive the first few years and easy to hire employees.

All these factors require an environment of low-cost compliance with regulations, low tax rates, low costs of transactions, reasonable transport costs, reasonable cost of money (but not near-zero), reasonable availability of capital for small enterprises, local and national governments that actively seek to smooth the path of new enterprises and existing enterprises seeking to expand, and a transparent marketplace that isn’t dominated by politically dominant cartels and subservient-to-cartels government agencies.

This matters because the number one cause of the high cost of living is artificial scarcity created and maintained by monopolies, cartels, and the government that serves their interests. Artificial scarcity imposed by cartels and a servile state is the primary cause of soaring costs in a variety of sectors.

There are many factors that generate artificial scarcity: regulatory capture/ regulatory moats designed to protect cartels and monopolies from competition, a lack of affordable capital available to small enterprises, thickets of regulations that don’t really serve the public interest, educational institutions that don’t teach the fundamentals of entrepreneurism and how to start and operate a small business, and so on.

Real-world limits also impose costs. Energy costs are rising for a variety of structural reasons; the easy-to-extract oil has been extracted, the full lifecycle costs of alternative energy sources remain substantial (maintenance is not free for the 20 year lifespan of the windmill/solar array, for example) and so on.

Land for new housing is scarce in many cities, and that imposes scarcity costs as various entities compete for the scarce resource (land).

If we look at eras of widespread prosperity, we find that work is abundant, private enterprises and trade are vibrant, the currency is stable, the cost of doing business is low, inflation and the cost of living are low, so even low-wage households can slowly improve their lot.

This doesn’t just describe America in the 1950s and 1960s–it also describes the Tang Dynasty in 700 A.D. China and the Byzantine Empire in its heyday. These are…

Continue Reading At: OfTwoMinds.com

Please Don’t Pop My Bubble!

Source: OfTwoMinds.com
Charles Hugh Smith
June 24, 2016

So ride your bubble of choice up–stocks, bonds, housing, bat guano, take your pick–but it’s best to keep your thumb on the sell button.

One person’s bubble is another person’s “fair market value.” What is clearly an outrageously overvalued asset perched at nosebleed levels of central-bank fueled speculative euphoria is to the owner an asset at “fair market value.”

But beneath the euphoric confidence that valuations can only drift higher forever and ever is the latent fear that something could stick a pin in “my bubble”— that is, whatever bubblicious asset we happen to own and treasure as a source of our financial wealth could be popped, destroying not just our financial bubble but our psychological bubble of faith in permanent manias.

Consider housing prices, which are clearly in an echo-bubble of the Great Housing Bubble of 2000-2007. (Chart courtesy of Market Daily Briefing.)

The psychological underpinning of all bubbles and echo bubbles is on display here. In the first bubble, those benefiting from the stupendous price increases are not just euphoric at the surge in unearned wealth–they believe the hype with all their hearts and minds that the bubble is not a bubble at all, it’s all just “fair market value” at work.

In other words, the massive increase in unearned personal wealth is not just temporary good fortune–it is permanent, rational and deserved.

Alas, all bubbles, no matter how euphoric or long-lasting, eventually pop. All the certainties that seemed so obviously true and timeless to the believers melt into air, and their touching faith that the bubble valuations were permanent, rational and deserved dissipates in a wrenchingly painful reconciliation with reality.

The agonized cries of those watching their bubble-wealth vanish do not fall on deaf ears. The same central bankers that inflated the bubble with super-low interest rates suddenly see their much-loved wealth effect (i.e. the bubble-generated psychological sense of wealth that emboldens people to borrow and spend money they shouldn’t borrow and spend) imploding before their eyes.

Continue Reading At: Continue Reading At: OfTwoMinds.com

Breakaway Links Of The Day – 4/5/2016

Breakaway
TheBreakaway
Zy Marquiez
April 5, 2016

The lot of the information discussed below gravitates towards the economy, and each features a different avenue from which to view poignant issues from.

If you haven’t heard/read John Perkins’ work please do so.  His work on what Economic Hitmen have done over time is astonishing when most people hear about it, and its only grown and gotten considerably worse.

5 Truths About The Economy The MSM Has Been Forced To Admit
[Source: TheInternationalForecaster]

The Triump Of The Invisible Hand
[Source: TheDailyBell]

The Distribution Of Wealth In America – Consequences, Causes & Remedies [4A of 5]
[Source: WashingtonsBlog]

California Gov. Signs Minimum Wake Hike: Admits It “Doesn’t Make Economic Sense” As Locals Flee For Texas
The irony would be laughable if it didn’t deal with people’s well being.
[Source: ZeroHedge]

Confessions Of An Economic Hitman, Proxy Wars & Those Behind Them – John Perskins
A truly must listen interview regarding what Economic Hitmen do, as well as how its gotten worse over the last decade. 
[Source: LeakProject]

This Is Enemy #1 When It Comes To Your Health
[Source: iHealthTube]