A little-noticed event occurred at approximately midnight on Monday, October 31, 2011: The national debt of the United States exceeded, for the first time since World War II, the country’s gross domestic product. The website USDebtClock.org showed the gross domestic product crossing the $15 trillion mark for the first time on Monday, while earlier in the day the numbers from TreasuryDirect showed the total public debt outstanding at $14.993 trillion and growing by more than seven billion dollars a day.
The New York Times and CBS has come out with a new poll that shows Americans have a strong mistrust of government. Almost 90 percent of Americans do not trust government to do the right thing and almost three quarters say that they believe the nation is on the wrong track. As the poll probes deeper into what Americans believe the government ought to do, partisan differences appear. Nearly nine out of 10 Democrats believe that the distribution of wealth in the country should be fairer, while two out of three independents agree with that, though only one out of three Republicans believe that to be true. This poll also showed that a significant percentage of Americans support the “Occupy Wall Street” movement while a much smaller percentage support the Tea Party Movement.
When Bank of America announced that it was moving its derivatives-laden portfolio at its subsidiary Merrill Lynch over to its bank holding company, it said it was merely responding to pressure from some of its partners to take advantage of the holding company’s higher credit rating. It would also reduce the need for the bank to post an additional $3.3 billion in collateral because of the recent downgrade it suffered at the hands of Moody’s last month.
David Galland’s article for the Daily Reckoning painted a picture of imminent collapse of America’s monetary system, which was followed four days later by Clive Maund’s possible scenario of bank failures following on the heels of a eurozone collapse. Mamta Badkar raised the specter of hyperinflation in his Business Insider article by reviewing the “10 Worst Hyper-Inflation Horror-Stories of the Past Century,” reflecting interest in whether, or how, the economic disaster of hyperinflation would affect the United States.
A closer look at the Department of Labor’s employment report earlier this month reveals that the real unemployment number is different from the “headline” number. Restated, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) should have concluded that unemployment is at least 9.1 percent, and most certainly much higher.
Back in August, when Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time in history, from AAA to AA+, the Obama administration was disgruntled and fearful of how such a move would impact economic growth. Once the initial shock of the maneuver passed, however, Washington returned to its business-as-usual mentality. Now, however, it seems that this period will be short-lived, as another downgrade is expected.
Citigroup has agreed to pay $285 million to settle civil fraud charges that it misled buyers of complex mortgage investments just as the housing market was starting to collapse. The Securities and Exchange Commission brought forth the civil action against Citigroup, claiming that investors who bought into the deal (which involved, essentially, stuffing portfolios with risky mortgage — related investments, selling it to unsuspecting customers, and then betting against those investments) had been defrauded. The transaction involved a one-billion dollar portfolio of mortgage-related investments, many of which were handpicked for the portfolio by Citigroup without telling investors of its role or that it had made bets that the investments would fall in value. The SEC says that as investors lost millions, Citigroup made $160 million in fees and profits.
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 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.