Poor Man Survival
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In trying times, too many people stop trying.
Despite assertions by pundits like Bill O’Reilly who believes there is no income disparity in the US – Only vanishing jobs due to technology, there is an income and opportunity gap. America’s mantra used to be Equality of Opportunity, now Obama just wants to redistribute income to make everyone equal. This formula has never worked.
The number one obstacle to opportunity and jobs is the government which produces so much red tap it strangles small business…in some states, it will cost nearly $1,000 in permits, fees, and training just to operate a hot dog cart.
The Middle Class Continues to get Clobbered
Major retailers had an absolutely dreadful start to 2014 and home sales are declining just as they did back in 2007 before the last financial crisis. Meanwhile, the U.S. economy continues to lose more good jobs and 20 percent of all U.S. families do not have a single member that is employed at this point. 2014 is turning out to be eerily similar to 2007 in so many ways, but most people are not paying attention.
The “retail apocalypse” continues to escalate, and the biggest reason for this is the fact that middle class consumers in the U.S. are tapped out. And this is not just happening to a few retailers – this is something that is happening across the board. The following is a summary of how major U.S. retailers performed in the first quarter of 2014 that was put together by Jim Quinn…
Wal-Mart Profit Plunges By $220 Million as US Store Traffic Declines by 1.4%
Target Profit Plunges by $80 Million, 16% Lower Than 2013, as Store Traffic Declines by 2.3%
Sears Loses $358 Million in First Quarter as Comparable Store Sales at Sears Plunge by 7.8% and Sales at Kmart Plunge by 5.1%
JC Penney Thrilled With Loss of Only $358 Million For the Quarter
Kohl’s Operating Income Plunges by 17% as Comparable Sales Decline by 3.4%
Costco Profit Declines by $84 Million as Comp Store Sales Only Increase by 2%
Staples Profit Plunges by 44% as Sales Collapse and Closing Hundreds of Stores
Gap Income Drops 22% as Same Store Sales Fall
American Eagle Profits Tumble 86%, Will Close 150 Stores
Aeropostale Losses $77 Million as Sales Collapse by 12%
Best Buy Sales Decline by $300 Million as Margins Decline and Comparable Store Sales Decline by 1.3%
Macy’s Profit Flat as Comparable Store Sales decline by 1.4%
Dollar General Profit Plummets by 40% as Comp Store Sales Decline by 3.8%
Urban Outfitters Earnings Collapse by 20% as Sales Stagnate
McDonalds Earnings Fall by $66 Million as US Comp Sales Fall by 1.7%
Darden Profit Collapses by 30% as Same Restaurant Sales Plunge by 5.6% and Company Selling Red Lobster
TJX Misses Earnings Expectations as Sales & Earnings Flat
Dick’s Misses Earnings Expectations as Golf Store Sales Plummet
Home Depot Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic Only Rises by 2.2%
Lowes Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic was Flat
That is quite a startling list.
But plummeting retail sales are not the only sign that the U.S. middle class is really struggling right now. Home sales have also been extremely disappointing for quite a few months. This is how Wolf Richter described what we have been witnessing…
This is precisely what shouldn’t have happened but was destined to happen: Sales of existing homes have gotten clobbered since last fall. At first, the Fiscal Cliff and the threat of a US government default – remember those zany times? – were blamed, then polar vortices were blamed even while home sales in California, where the weather had been gorgeous all winter, plunged more than elsewhere.
Then it spread to new-home sales: in April, they dropped 4.7% from a year ago, after March’s year-over-year decline of 4.9%, and February’s 2.8%. Not a good sign: the April hit was worse than February’s, when it was the weather’s fault. Yet April should be the busiest month of the year (excellent brief videoby Lee Adler on this debacle).
We have already seen that in some markets, in California for example, sales have collapsed at the lower two-thirds of the price range, with the upper third thriving. People who earn median incomes are increasingly priced out of the market, and many potential first-time buyers have little chance of getting in. In San Diego, for example, sales of homes below $200,000 plunged 46% while the upper end is doing just fine.
As Richter noted, sales of upper end homes are still doing fine in many areas.
But how long will that be able to continue if things continue to get even worse for the poor and the middle class? Traditionally, the U.S. economy has greatly depended upon consumer spending by the middle class. If that continues to dry up, how long can we avoid falling into a recession?
Other analysts are expressing similar concerns. For example, check out what John Williams of shadowstats.com had to say during one recent interview…
We’re turning down anew. The first quarter should revise into negative territory… and I believe the second quarter will report negative as well.
That will all happen by July 30 when you have the annual revisions to the GDP. In reality the economy is much weaker than that. Economic growth is overstated with the GDP because they understate inflation, which is used in deflating the number…
The reason for this is that the consumer is strapped… doesn’t have the liquidity to fuel the growth in consumption.
Income… the median household income, net of inflation, is as low as it was in 1967. The average guy is not staying ahead of inflation…
This has been a problem now for decades… You were able to buy consumption from the future by borrowing more money, expanding your debt. Greenspan saw the problem was income, so he encouraged debt expansion.
As a result – personal consumption is more than two thirds of the economy – there’s no way you can have positive sustainable growth in the U.S. economy without the consumer being healthy.
The key to the health of the middle class is having plenty of good jobs. But the U.S. economy continues to lose more good paying jobs.
For example, Hewlett-Packard has just announced that it plans to eliminate 16,000 more jobs in addition to the 34,000 job cuts that have already been announced.
Today, there are 27 million more working age Americans that do not have a job than there were in 2000, and the quality of our jobs continues to decline.
This is absolutely destroying the middle class. Unless the employment situation in this country starts to turn around, there does not seem to be much hope that the middle class will recover any time soon.
Condensed from a post by…
Michael Snyder is the Editor of The Economic Collapse Blog.
Yours in freedom,
Bruce ‘the Poor Man’
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