Economy Stats & Debt Flooding - Bartering Ideas?


Bartering is the key to success in all of whatever occurs.  PURCHASE ITEMS AND FOOD NOW TO BARTER WHEN YOU NEED TO.  Buy things specifically for those times when situations get rough as you will have living GOLD to exchange. 

DO NOT HOARD (READ HERE!) as that creates its own problems,  but be ready to barter whatever you think someone may value as an exchange during hard times.  Have it ready for whatever situation may occur in your region in the near future,  or after the 7 of 10.

How can one prepare for this financial situation if the grid stops working?  What will be the expectations?  It is likely most folks will hope the local community or government will provide for them.  However,  just take note of how the Asia Pacific flooding has been handled to get an idea of the kind of help one may get.

While the Financial Condition of the global economy is still spiraling, the Zetas mentioned before the PS there will be much bartering going on.   With the 7 of 10 being expedited from the Christmas Hammer it is likely this will cause great havoc financially and socially.  Just to add to that the world has absolutely NO IDEA what will be the new situation.


Broke! 10 Facts About The Financial Condition Of American Families That Will Blow Your Mind


The crumbling U.S. economy is putting an extraordinary amount of financial stress on American families.  For many Americans, "flat broke" has become a permanent condition.  Today, over half of all American families live paycheck to paycheck.  Unemployment is rampant and those that do actually have jobs are finding that their wages are rising much more slowly than prices are.  The financial condition of average American families continues to decline and this is showing up in all of the recent surveys.  For example, according to a new Gallup poll, "lack of money/low wages" is the number one financial concern for American families.  To make ends meet, many American families are going into even more debt and more American families than ever are turning to government assistance.  Right now, more Americans than at any other point since World War II are flat broke and have lost hope.  Until this changes, the frustration level in this country is going to continue to grow.

The following are 10 facts about the financial condition of American families that will blow your mind.....

#1 Only 58 percent of Americans have a job right now.

Only 58 percent of Americans have a job right now

#2 Only 56 percent of Americans are currently covered by employer-provided health insurance.

#3 The median yearly wage in the United States is $26,261.

#4 The average American household is carrying $75,600 in debt.

#5 Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.

#6 At this point, American families are approximately 7.7 trillion dollars poorer than they were back in early 2007.

#7 The poorest 50% of all Americans now own just 2.5% of all the wealth in the United States.

#8 According to one study, approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States were living below the poverty line in 2010.

#9 Today, there are more than 44 million Americans on food stamps, and nearly half of them are children.

#10 According to Newsweek, close to 20 percent of all American men between the ages of 25 and 54 do not have a job at the moment.

So what is causing all of this?

Where in the world did all of the good jobs go?

Well, the truth is that millions of them have been shipped overseas.

Our politicians promised us that merging our economy with the economies of other nations where it is legal to pay slave labor wages to workers would not create more unemployment inside America.

They were dead wrong.

Now we are being told that we just need to accept a lower standard of living.

For example, billionaire Howard Marks says that it is time for all of us to just accept that the standard of living of American workers is inevitably going to decline to the level of the rest of the world....

"In addition to balancing the budget and growing the economy, I think we have to accept that the coming decades are likely to see U.S. standards of living decline relative to the rest of the world. Unless our goods offer a better cost/benefit bargain, there’s no reason why American workers should continue to enjoy the same lifestyle advantage over workers in other countries. I just don’t expect to hear many politicians own up to this reality on the stump."

Are you willing to accept that?

Meanwhile, the job losses continue to get worse.  As I wrote about the other day, as the U.S. economy has started to slow down again we are starting to see another huge wave of layoffs all over America.

You can stop waiting for the "good jobs" to come back.

They aren't coming back.

That is one reason why I try to encourage everyone to become more independent of the system.

As our economic system continues to degenerate, Americans are going to become increasingly desperate.

Sadly, desperate people do desperate things.  Already we are starting to see signs that the fabric of American society is starting to be ripped to shreds.

So what is going to happen if the economy gets even worse?

There is a limit to how many people we can actually put in prison.  The reality is that the number of Americans in prison has nearly tripled since 1987.

Our prisons are already dangerously overcrowded.  As society falls apart, many communities will simply not be able to shove more people behind bars.

Even with our prisons stuffed to the gills, many of our largest cities continue to be transformed into absolute hellholes.

Detroit is now the 3rd most dangerous city on the entire planet and New Orleans is now the 9th most dangerous city on the entire planet.


While we await the 7 to play out, mounting personal debt is having a slowing effect on preparation. How did it all start?? Here is an interesting video series on banks and debt (click the series).

With a slowing economy worldwide, little money is left to spend on preparing a Safe Location. But NOW is the time to do this. Unfortunately, anything which has not happened yet is trivial for some family members to face. Those who want to prepare are simply out of luck with assistance from those who don't see the need yet.

Are you able to afford moving to your Safe Location? Can you afford to buy land or a property AND build your own safe home? Got any extra money to help anyone else? Got just gas in the car and hoping for the best? Community building really should begin NOW before things get too difficult to prepare after the 7 of 10. Learn some basics of rugged living here if you can only just rough it. and you will be amazed!:




20 Reasons Why Millions Of Americans Under The Age Of 30 Are Giving Up On The U.S. Economy

Millions upon millions of young Americans have completely lost faith in the U.S. economy and are mad as hell that their economic futures have been destroyed.  The recent economic downturn has hit those under the age of 30 the hardest.  Today, there are hordes of young people that should be entering their most productive years that are sitting home with nothing to do.  Many of them have worked incredibly hard throughout high school and college.  Many of them have stayed out of trouble and have done everything that "the system" asked them to do.  But once they got finished with school, the promised "rewards" simply were not there.  Instead, millions of young Americans are faced with crushing student loan debt loads in an economy where they can't find good jobs.  When you are in your twenties, it can be absolutely soul-crushing to send out hundreds (or even thousands) of resumes and not get a single interview.  Most of us grew up believing that we would "be something" when we got older, and millions of young Americans are having those dreams brutally crushed right now.  Americans under the age of 30 voted for Barack Obama in droves back in 2008 because they believed that he would make things better.  Instead, Barack Obama has made things even worse.  Significant numbers of young Americans are starting to wake up and realize that neither political party is providing any real answers, and they are starting to get mad as hell about it.

Americans under the age of 30 don't want to hear that they are not going to be able to do better than their parents.  They don't want to hear that they are going to have to "pay the price" because of the mistakes of previous generations.  They don't want to hear that the "good jobs" that have been held out as a "carrot" for them all these years have disappeared and are not coming back.

Millions of young Americans want what was promised to them.  They want good jobs that will enable them to enjoy the "American Dream".  They want things to go back to the way that things used to work in America.

If you spend much time around those in their twenties, you know that many of them have a look of hopelessness in their eyes.  Large numbers of them have moved back in with their parents.  Large numbers of them are flipping burgers or working retail jobs part-time because that is all they can find.  There are even a growing number of them that have given up entirely and have completely checked out.

So are we in the process of creating a "lost generation"?

The following are 20 reasons why millions of Americans under the age of 30 are giving up on the U.S. economy....

#1 Only 55.3% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 were employed last year.  That was the lowest level that we have seen since World War II.

#2 Today, there are 5.9 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 that are living with their parents.

#3 The economic downturn has been particularly tough on men.  According to Census data, men are twice as likely to live with their parents as women are.

#4 Amazingly, less than 30 percent of all U.S. teens had a job this summer.

#5 Approximately one out of every five Americans under the age of 30 is currently living in poverty.

#6 According to one recent survey, only 14 percent of all Americans that are 28 or 29 years old are optimistic about their financial futures.

#7 Since the year 2000, incomes for U.S. households led by someone between the ages of 25 and 34 have fallen by about 12 percent after you adjust for inflation.

#8 The cost of "getting an education" has become increasingly burdensome in recent years.  Average yearly tuition at U.S. private universities is now up to $27,293.  That figure has increased by 29% in just the past five years.

#9 In America today, approximately two-thirds of all college students graduate with student loans.

#10 Millions of young Americans are absolutely being financially strangled by horrific student loan debt loads.  Sadly, the total amount of student loan debt in the United States now exceeds the total amount of credit card debt in the United States.

#11 In 2010, the average college graduate had accumulated approximately $25,000 in student loan debt by graduation day.

#12 One-third of all college graduates end up taking jobs that don't even require college degrees.

#13 In the United States today, there are more than 100,000 janitors that have college degrees.

#14 In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.

#15 In the United States today, approximately 365,000 cashiers have college degrees.

#16 In the United States today, 24.5 percent of all retail salespersons have a college degree.

#17 As the economy has crumbled, fewer young Americans have been getting married.  Today, an all-time low 44.2% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 are married.

#18 Young Americans are becoming increasingly frustrated as our politicians stand by and do nothing while our economy is being hollowed out.  The sad truth is that United States has lost an average of 50,000 manufacturing jobs a month since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and top politicians in both major political parties keep pushing for even more job-killing "free trade" agreements.

#19 Young Americans are becoming increasingly frustrated that pretty much the only jobs that seem to be available are low paying jobs.  Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#20 Young Americans are becoming increasingly frustrated that previous generations have saddled them with a 14 trillion dollar national debt that they are expected to make payments on for the rest of their lives.

A lot of young Americans swing back and forth between anger and despair.  Many of them worked like crazy for years because of the promise of a better life, and now they are being bitterly disappointed.  Just consider the following testimonial that was recently posted on The Atlantic....

I am in my mid-20s. I have a university education. I started working when I was 14. I have chemical burns and scars over my hands from dealing with caustic cleaning chemicals. I did not want that to be my life like my uncles. I had to get out. I worked very hard in high school and volunteered and was the member of clubs and all of that great stuff. I got into a good university and worked hard. I took a language course, took things that I loved. I worked through my degree - I was even a janitor in a building that I lived in, because I needed the cut in rent. I did that for no pay.

After these months of unemployment I have fallen into a pretty major depression. I live at home, I do chores, I look for work. As much as I want to get my life together, I have some great mental health issues to deal with - but have neither the money to purchase medication that may help me, nor the ability to pay for psychological or psychiatric help.

So what can be done?

Well, someone could wave a magic wand and fix the U.S. economy, but we all know that is not going to happen.

In fact, there is all kinds of evidence that the U.S. economy is about to get even worse.

So should we just tell our young people that they might as well just give up and start making rap videos about using food stamp cards like this one?  (*Warning* The video contains some very strong language.)

The number of Americans on food stamps has increased by 74 percent since 2007.  Millions of young people are learning that the only way to survive is to be dependent on the government.

It certainly does not help that our entire education system is deeply broken.  For example, did you know that the verbal scores on the SAT for the class of 2011 were the lowest ever recorded?

Our students have become so "dumbed down" that large numbers of them can barely even function in society once they graduate.

That is not their fault.

That is our fault.

We have failed young Americans in so many ways that it would take a series of books to detail them all.

We can say that we are sorry, but that just isn't going to cut it.

Millions of young Americans want what was promised to them, but we no longer have it to give to them.

Anger in this nation is already starting to boil over in strange and unpredictable ways.  If the economy gets even worse, we are going to have tens of millions of young Americans that are mad as hell and that are ready to riot in the streets.

What are we going to do then?

According to a recent Gallup poll, 81 percent of Americans are "dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed".

That is not a sign of a healthy nation.

The sad truth is that the foundations of America are crumbling and we have millions upon millions of young people that are incredibly angry and incredibly frustrated.

It does not take a genius to figure out that is a recipe for disaster.


Wage pic source:




The new Barter System is emerging. Here is some Zeta Talk on it:
Dropping Dollar
Barter Systems:
"In that one's skill sets can be considered a bartering item, one should examine their own skill set by the following exam. If you were in the middle of a wilderness, alone, what steps would you take to survive? What is the first skill that you would need, and not have? Whom do you know that you would wish about you, in such as circumstance? What is that skill that they possess, that you perhaps could develop? Imagine a group in such a setting, having arrivedat a land dump where various pieces of junk are about and could provide mechanical devices or shelter, if utilized creatively and resourcefully. How would you go about creating a comfortable home for yourself, and others, in such as situation? If you are clueless on how to use junk to structure a home, recycle and hook up, then perhaps you should work with a junk man, in his yard, and take lessons! What we are
telling you is that you should mentally put yourself in this setting, and you will have no difficulty determining what is useless or most worthwhile, in a skill set. If you are an accountant, and cannot translate this skill into
becoming a tailor or herdsman or cook, your skill is useless!"

Barter System to replace money in some regions:
"We advise the common man, as we have in the past, to relieve
themselves of stock and jewels and paper money that will fall in value, perhaps suddenly and without warning. Better to stock up on things that will have value, candles and matches, school books and a guitar, than what the rich treasure."


Paper Promise:

"During the Great Depression, the world was not beset with natural disaster after natural disaster, as is starting to occur today. Commerce, trade, was reduced due to lack of confidence but at the base, the economies were solid and recovery followed renewed confidence. Today, all countries are in a crisis affecting their base economies. We mentioned that Crop Failure would follow the irregular weather, and it did. But buildings collapsing in earthquakes, trains running off suddenly twisted tracks, factories exploding as gas lines breach, and storms tearing at coastlines without remorse do more than represent an opportunity to rebuild."


ZetaTalk Prediction 7/30/2011:
We have mentioned that the status quo is likely to be continued up to and even into the Last Weeks, as those who benefit from the status quo see no alternative for themselves. Bankrupt countries will continue to print money, devaluing their dollars, as the alternative is to declare bankruptcy, making their money virtually worthless. This attitude extends to corporations and the banking industry, where their failure is a specter too gruesome to contemplate, envisioned as making matters worse, so they are pumped up with loans or legislation to avoid failures and layoffs. It is the lack of alternatives that drives the process. This is a global issue. All are likely to stumble forward thus, maintaining the status quo, until the public has switched entirely to the barter system as the only medium of exchange that has any meaning.




In the Aftertime, the barter system will be the way of exchange as money will no longer exist. To make a gradual adjustment, it may be helpful to discuss it here if you like. Got any ideas on how to not get burned? How does one get the most out of the barter? Bartering is a skill that gets better with time. It is not our current system, so it must be understood so that it will work comfortably every time.



Got anything to share? What skills or trades work best in an Aftertime environment? How about what can be traded NOW before the 7 completes or before the PS?????


Showing the economic changes for better or worse may also be helpful to put things in perspective. Just as flooding of rain water is happening worldwide, economic statistics are SOARING for unemployment, bankruptcies, home foreclosures worldwide. Feel free to share input on that!


Rick Rickster

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Comment by Rick Rickster on April 18, 2012 at 3:18am

Stockton CA on verge of bankruptcy.  Wonder if this is a trend starting in other cities?  Stockton is in the center of California,  where CA is one of the largest single economies of the world.

In California, City Teeters on Brink of Bankruptcy


STOCKTON, Calif. — The signs of better times are easy to spot downtown: the picturesque marina on the San Joaquin Delta, the gleaming waterfront sports arena, and the handsome high-rise that was meant to house a new city hall. But those symbols are now bitter reminders of how bad things are here today: on Tuesday this city of almost 300,000 moved a step closer to becoming the nation’s largest city to declare bankruptcy.

During a contentious meeting that stretched late into the night, the City Council decided, nearly unanimously, to begin mediation with public employee unions and major bond creditors in what is widely seen as the city’s last-ditch attempt to restructure its finances outside of bankruptcy. Facing a budget deficit from $20 million to $38 million on a budget of roughly $165 million, the Council declared a fiscal emergency for the third year in a row.

“Right now we are a city that has frankly hit a wall,” Mayor Ann Johnston told the Council and hundreds of city residents who attended the meeting. “If the players don’t come together and agree to a fix, then we’re all in big trouble.”

Under a law passed by the California Legislature last year, cities must hire a third-party mediator to help negotiate with unions and debtors for a period of 90 days before declaring Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Stockton will be the first to test the new procedure. Nearby, Vallejo, Calif., declared bankruptcy in 2008, and Stockton has hired the same bankruptcy lawyer who represented that city.

Stockton officials say they hope mediation will allow them to avoid bankruptcy and indicated they might focus their push on reducing generous retiree health benefits. The city is also suspending $2 million in debt payments this year.

The city has already drastically cut back municipal staff, including the Police and Fire Departments. With nearly 100 fewer police officers than there were just four years ago, many residents fret about rising crime rates; there were 58 murders last year, an all-time high for the city.

City Manager Bob Deis blamed previous administrations for the city’s troubles, saying that in his 32 years of municipal management he had “never seen such poor fiscal management practices.”

Stockton, about an 80-mile drive east of San Francisco, boomed a decade ago, as eager buyers from Silicon Valley bought up homes in the area. But in the past several years, housing values have plummeted, and the city has steadily had one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country.

Comment by Rick Rickster on April 18, 2012 at 3:08am

If Economy is Recovering, Why Are U.S. Cities Going Bankrupt?

Mar 09, 2012 - 01:16 PM


Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleAs pundits chatter about an economic recovery, 80 miles east of San Francisco you'll find a city (pop. 292,000) facing bankruptcy:

Stockton is on the verge of becoming the largest city in the United States to declare bankruptcy...

San Francisco Chronicle (3/4)

Bloomberg reports (2/25) that it costs the city $175,000 just to get a consulting firm's fiscal evaluation. Management Partners issued a report which said:

...the city took on a large amount of debt in anticipation of ongoing growth that now exceeds the city's ability to pay. Compensation packages exceeded sustainable levels and the city assumed a significant liability for improved retiree health coverage without sufficient recurring revenues to cover growing costs...

Stockton also has one of the nation's highest home foreclosure rates and has been called "Foreclosureville USA."

And Moody's just downgraded Stockton's rating to Ba2, which is two levels below investment grade.

In the same Bloomberg article, the California State Treasurer said "The reputational stain can bleed onto other local issuers and the state, and that can hurt taxpayers in the bond market."

Yet in recent months investors have been enamored with municipal bonds. Our December Financial Forecast said:

No matter how thick the storm clouds over state and city finances become, the belief in a bullet-proof municipal bond market just seems to grow. As the [chart below] shows, the ratio of AAA municipal bond yields to comparably-dated U.S. Treasury yields August.

...investors still believe munis are safe, but we'll stick with our bearish forecast...the evidence continues to mount that a change for the worse is underway. Deflation will only accentuate the impact of waning revenue streams, underfunded pension liabilities and bloated labor costs.

Financial Forecast, Dec. 2011

Other municipalities facing recent bankruptcy include:

  • Jefferson County, Alabama (home of Birmingham)
  • Central Falls, Rhode Island
  • Boise County, Idaho

Jefferson County, Alabama is the biggest U.S. municipality to face bankruptcy; Stockton is the biggest city.

In fact, as of December there were eleven municipal bankruptcies in 2011. Many other cities face extreme financial woes.

Economic recovery?

Look under the hood so you can see what kind of condition our economic engine is really in. Prepare for what's ahead.

Comment by Rick Rickster on April 3, 2012 at 8:15pm

The real hunger games: How banks gamble on food prices – and the poor lose out

In the last decade, financiers have speculated billions of pounds in food, helping to make prices dearer and more volatile


Speculation by large investment banks is driving up food prices for the world's poorest people, tipping millions into hunger and poverty. Investment in food commodities by banks and hedge funds has risen from $65bn to $126bn (£41bn to £79bn) in the past five years, helping to push prices to 30-year highs and causing sharp price fluctuations that have little to do with the actual supply of food, says the United Nations' leading expert on food.

Hedge funds, pension funds and investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Barclays Capital now dominate the food commodities markets, dwarfing the amount traded by actual food producers and buyers. Purely financial players, for example, account for 61 per cent of investment on the wheat futures market, according to the World Development Movement report Broken Markets.

Speculative investment in agricultural commodities in 2011 was 20 times the amount spent by all countries on agricultural aid. Goldman Sachs, the largest player in the agricultural commodities market, earned £600m from food speculation in 2009, and Barclays Capital, the world's third-largest player and largest British bank in this market, earned up to £340m in 2010, according to the report. Goldman Sachs and Barclays Capital declined to comment.

Before it was deregulated in the year 2000, the agricultural commodities futures market was used mainly by farmers and food buyers seeking to insure themselves against changes in the prices of products such as wheat, maize and sugar. When George W Bush passed the Commodities Futures Modernization Act 12 years ago, there was an influx, led by Goldman Sachs, of purely financial players who had no interest in ever buying food, but who sought solely to profit from changes in food prices, says Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food.

He added: "What we are seeing now is that these financial markets have developed massively with the arrival of these new financial investors, who are purely interested in the short-term monetary gain and are not really interested in the physical thing – they never actually buy the ton of wheat or maize; they only buy a promise to buy or to sell. The result of this financialisation of the commodities market is that the prices of the products respond increasingly to a purely speculative logic. This explains why in very short periods of time we see prices spiking or bubbles exploding, because prices are less and less determined by the real match between supply and demand."

Food prices reached a 30-year high in 2008, sparking food riots from Mexico to Bangladesh. Prices rose even higher in September 2010 and, although they have dipped since, they remain above the 2008 crisis level. This has resulted in a "silent tsunami of hunger", according to the UN World Food Programme. High prices for basic foodstuffs, combined with the global economic slump, have pushed 115 million more people into hunger and poverty since 2008, bringing the total number of hungry people in the world today to 925 million.

High prices are "an absolute catastrophe" for poor consumers, says De Schutter, because they typically spend more than 60 per cent of their household budget on food.

Comment by Rick Rickster on March 28, 2012 at 7:30am

More jumping ship....450 resigned as of 3/25??  WOW

Pic source

Comment by Rick Rickster on March 27, 2012 at 5:52am

The First Crack: $270 Billion In Student Loans Are At Least 30 Days Delinquent

03/25/2012 15:31 -0400


Back in late 2006 and early 2007 a few (soon to be very rich) people were warning anyone who cared to listen, about what cracks in the subprime facade meant for the housing sector and the credit bubble in general. They were largely ignored as none other than the Fed chairman promised that all is fine (see here). A few months later New Century collapsed and the rest is history: tens of trillions later we are still picking up the pieces and housing continues to collapse. Yet one bubble which the Federal Government managed to blow in the meantime to staggering proportions in virtually no time, for no other reason than to give the impression of consumer releveraging, was the student debt bubble, which at last check just surpassed $1 trillion, and is growing at $40-50 billion each month. However, just like subprime, the first cracks have now appeared. In a report set to convince borrowers that Student Loan ABS are still safe - of course they are - they are backed by all taxpayers after all in the form of the Family Federal Education Program - Fitch discloses something rather troubling, namely that of the $1 trillion + in student debt outstanding, "as many as 27% of all student loan borrowers are more than 30 days past due." In other words at least $270 billion in student loans are no longer current (extrapolating the delinquency rate into the total loans outstanding). That this is happening with interest rates at record lows is quite stunning and a loud wake up call that it is not rates that determine affordability and sustainability: it is general economic conditions, deplorable as they may be, which have made the popping of the student loan bubble inevitable. It also means that if the rise in interest rate continues, then the student loan bubble will pop that much faster, and bring another $1 trillion in unintended consequences on the shoulders of the US taxpayer who once again will be left footing the bill.

From Fitch:

Fitch believes most student loan asset-backed securities (ABS) transactions remain well protected due to the government guarantee on Family Federal Education Program (FFELP) loans. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently reported that as many as 27% of all student loan borrowers are more than 30 days past due. Recent estimates mark outstanding student loans at $900 billion- $1 trillion. Fitch believes that the recent increase in past-due and defaulted student loans presents a risk to investors in private student loan ABS, but not those in ABS trusts backed by FFELP loans.

Why is the bubble starting to pop now?

Several macroeconomic factors are putting pressure on student loan borrowers.......

.....Actually, no: the unemployment for 18-24 year olds is 46%. Yup: 46%.


Continued with Lots more info and detailed charts here.....!
Comment by Rick Rickster on March 22, 2012 at 8:14pm

If the grid goes down in Sweden,  EVERYONE will be on the barter system immediately with this new development.

Sweden moving towards cashless economy

Vicar Johan Tyrberg in the Carl Gustaf Church in Karlshamn, southern Sweden, on Sept 7, 2011, stands next to a credit card machine enabling worshippers to donate money to the church collection without carrying money in their pockets. (AP Photo/Camilla Lindskog)


(AP) STOCKHOLM - Sweden was the first European country to introduce bank notes in 1661. Now it's come farther than most on the path toward getting rid of them.

"I can't see why we should be printing bank notes at all anymore," says Bjoern Ulvaeus, former member of 1970's pop group ABBA, and a vocal proponent for a world without cash.

The contours of such a society are starting to take shape in this high-tech nation, frustrating those who prefer coins and bills over digital money.

In most Swedish cities, public buses don't accept cash; tickets are prepaid or purchased with a cell phone text message. A small but growing number of businesses only take cards, and some bank offices — which make money on electronic transactions — have stopped handling cash altogether.

"There are towns where it isn't at all possible anymore to enter a bank and use cash," complains Curt Persson, chairman of Sweden's National Pensioners' Organization.

He says that's a problem for elderly people in rural areas who don't have credit cards or don't know how to use them to withdraw cash.

The decline of cash is noticeable even in houses of worship, like the Carl Gustaf Church in Karlshamn, southern Sweden, where Vicar Johan Tyrberg recently installed a card reader to make it easier for worshippers to make offerings.

"People came up to me several times and said they didn't have cash but would still like to donate money," Tyrberg says.

Bills and coins represent only 3 percent of Sweden's economy, compared to an average of 9 percent in the eurozone and 7 percent in the U.S., according to the Bank for International Settlements, an umbrella organization for the world's central banks.

Three percent is still too much if you ask Ulvaeus. A cashless society may seem like an odd cause for someone who made a fortune on "Money, Money, Money" and other ABBA hits, but for Ulvaeus it's a matter of security.

After his son was robbed for the third time he started advocating a faster transition to a fully digital economy, if only to make life harder for thieves.

"If there were no cash, what would they do?" says Ulvaeus, 66.

The Swedish Bankers' Association says the shrinkage of the cash economy is already making an impact in crime statistics.

The number of bank robberies in Sweden plunged from 110 in 2008 to 16 in 2011 — the lowest level since it started keeping records 30 years ago. It says robberies of security transports are also down.

"Less cash in circulation makes things safer, both for the staff that handle cash, but also of course for the public," says Par Karlsson, a security expert at the organization.

more here....

Comment by Rick Rickster on March 20, 2012 at 4:19am

Greece on the breadline: the theatre exchanging tickets for food

Greeks queue to buy cheap food
Greeks queue to buy cheap potatoes in Thessaloniki. Theatregoers can now donate food in exchange for tickets. Photograph: Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP/Getty Images

Solidarity among crisis-hit Greeks is showing up in unexpected places these days.

At one end of Thessaloniki's long, cafe-lined seafront, behind the 15th-century White Tower that is the city's symbol, is the resplendent main stage of the National Theatre of Northern Greece (NTNG), as imposing a temple to high culture as anyone could wish for.

Here the curtain is about to go up on a six-week season of plays, including works by Edward Albee, Harold Pinter and Jean Genet, that will be performed by members of the theatre's 100-strong troupe of actors under the banner Social Theatreshop.

What's novel is that theatregoers coming to see the Social Theatreshop productions will pay for their tickets not with money but with food, which the theatre's staff will then distribute among half a dozen charities and welfare organisations in the city.

"We are, everyone knows it, in a very, very bad situation," said the deputy artistic director, Giannis Rigas, who like everyone else involved in the project is not being paid for it.

"We thought we, actors, technicians, directors, have to do something for people who now have so little money that they are going hungry.

"But this isn't charity, it's a fair exchange: food for theatre. And it's also a nice way to bring people back to the theatre: put it back where it belongs, in the middle of the community."

The opening play in the season, directed by Rigas, is a Greek repertoire classic from 1946 by Alekos Sakellarios. The NTNG is staging the piece, it says, to mark the 20th anniversary of the playwright's death.

The title suggests another motive may be lurking somewhere behind the scenes: it is called The Germans Strike Again.

"It's about a poor Greek guy who falls asleep after the war and dreams that the Germans have come back," said Rigas, straight-faced.

"It's about the way we Greeks respond when we are under pressure. We usually quarrel, of course. But this play says: be cool, find our own way – otherwise the Germans will just keep coming back."

In the present circumstances, he conceded, it was perhaps an apt message.

Choice of play aside, the goal of the Social Theatreshop, Rigas said, was "to say to absolutely everyone in our community that we too, in the theatre, have them in our minds".

Greek theatre, he said, is in dire straits: "Theatres are closing around the country. We have no money – well, we have a little, but it c

Comment by Rick Rickster on March 20, 2012 at 4:17am

Let the Barter System Begin! This is a major development in Greece, likely to take the world by storm in economic hard times now and to come!

Greece on the breadline: 'potato movement' links shoppers and farmers


A scheme letting consumers buy food straight from producers is typical of the inventive ways Greeks are finding to get by.

Greek customers buy potatoes direct from the farmers in Thessaloniki. Photograph: Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP/Getty Images

There's some dispute about where and when it all started, but Christos Kamenides, genial professor of agricultural marketing at the University of Thessaloniki, is pretty confident he and his students have made sure it's not about to stop any time soon.

What's sure is that the so-called potato movement, through which thousands of tonnes of potatoes and other agricultural produce – including, hopefully, next month, Easter lamb – are being sold directly to consumers by their producers, is taking off across Greece.

"It's because everyone benefits," said Kamenides, standing in a clearing in the woods above Thessaloniki in front of one 25-tonne truck of potatoes, another of onions, and smaller vans of rice and olives. "Consumers gets good-quality food for a third of the price they would normally pay, and the producers get their money straight away."

As devised by Kamenides and his students, it's a simple system. Their brainwave was to involve Greece's local municipalities, lending the movement a degree of both organisation and official encouragement that it might otherwise have lacked.

So: a town hall announces a sale. Locals sign up for what they want to buy. The town hall then tells Kamenides the quantity required and he and his students call local farmers to see who can supply it. They show up with the requisite amount of produce at the appointed place and time, meet their consumers, and the deal is done.

The direct sales are immensely popular. One organised last month by volunteers in Katerini, south of Thessaloniki, last month saw an online offer of 24 tonnes of potatoes sell out within four days, with 534 families pre-ordering.

"Today," said Kamenides, "we have one truck here, and two in another municipality up the road. Tomorrow we have a sale with four trucks – that's 100 tonnes of potatoes, straight from the producer to the consumer, with nobody in the middle pushing up prices."

The movement, said Elisabet Tsitsopoulou, one of the women queuing up to buy, is "extremely important. Salaries here are so low now, and still falling, but the price of everything seems to stay just as high as it ever was. This is much cheaper, much less than half price."

Tsitsopoulou bought five 25kg bags of potatoes for her family and her neighbours. "The other advantage," she said, "is that you can see the quality and where the produce comes from. With supermarkets, you can never really be sure. It's just a brilliant system."

The producers are equally delighted. Apostolos Kasapis said the principal benefit for him was that "I get paid straight away. The profit is not very high, just a bit above the production cost, but

Comment by Rick Rickster on March 19, 2012 at 10:51am
Comment by Rick Rickster on March 13, 2012 at 5:56am


Illinois state ‘on brink of collapse’

Source: FT

Illinois’ financial problems are forcing it to choose between its pensions and its teeth.

Governor Pat Quinn says the state needs to face its “rendezvous with reality” and tackle its dysfunctional budget habits. Top of the list, Mr Quinn says, is to slash spending on Medicaid, a federal programme that provides healthcare to poor Americans.

To save a system he says is “on the brink of collapse”, Mr Quinn proposes cutting $2.7bn from Illinois’ $11.5bn Medicaid bill. Few would dispute that the state needs to change its behaviour. Last year, Illinois underfunded Medicaid by $2bn as it struggled with debts totalling more than $280bn, an $86bn hole in its public pension funds and a $9bn backlog of unpaid bills.

The Medicaid tab has grown since the financial crisis, which pushed more people into poverty. In 2007, 2.1m Illinois residents were eligible for the low-income programme. Today, 2.7m qualify – 1.7m of them children, according to the state’s department of healthcare and family services.

Milona Van Kanegan, a dentist at a clinic serving poor adults in Humboldt Park, a neighbourhood in West Chicago with a high population of Latin American immigrants, says cuts could have a devastating effect on her patients. She worries that thousands of people across Illinois could be excluded from the system.

“Now, people are getting care because they are insured,” she says. “If they’re pushed out, they’ll ignore their problems and their teeth will just get worse and worse. Dental disease is cumulative. It builds up over years of neglect.”

The risk that decades of financial mismanagement in Illinois could be paid for with the teeth of some of its poorer residents is a vivid demonstration of the ways average Americans’ lives will be affected as the US tackles its local, state and federal debts. The irony is that because Medicaid is jointly funded by the state and the federal government, cuts at the state level also will help reduce the US deficit, since Washington matches state money.

To stem the growing shortfall in its public pension funds, Illinois pledged to pay its full pension obligations – $5.2bn next year – without borrowing, something budget watchdog groups have long urged it to do.

However, the state can only afford to do this by cutting sharply elsewhere. “This represents the ‘crowding out’ of spending as a result of the demands of the pension system,” says Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University.

In that sense, Illinois – which has the most underfunded public pension system in the US – could be a leading indicator for a pension crunch that will hit other cash-strapped states. “We’re going to see more and more states cutting spending to meet pension obligations mandated by the state’s own statutes,” says Prof Rauh.

In Illinois, the axe will not just fall on healthcare spending. Among other big cuts, Mr Quinn also proposes closing two state prisons and six halfway houses. Already, the system’s 48,620 inmates are crammed into space designed to hold 33,704, according to the state’s department of corrections.

The budget squeeze comes a year after Illinois hiked taxes, raising corporate tax rates from 7.3 per cent to 9.5 per cent and income tax from 3 per cent to 5 per cent. However, that has been undermined by tax cuts for companies – including Sears, truckmaker Navistar and futures exchange CME Group – designed to prevent them moving to lower-tax states.

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