Pension crisis a global problem unfolding

Pension crisis a global problem unfolding – Business – CBC News.

CBC News

Dec 30, 2013

Coal miners protest outside of Peabody Coal in St. Louis on Monday, April 29, 2013. The problems facing pension plans throughout the world are very much a global problem.

Coal miners protest outside of Peabody Coal in St. Louis on Monday, April 29, 2013. The problems facing pension plans throughout the world are very much a global problem. (The Associated Press)

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A global retirement crisis is bearing down on workers of all ages.

Spawned years before the Great Recession and the 2008 financial meltdown, the crisis was significantly worsened by those twin traumas. It will play out for decades, and its consequences will be far-reaching.

Many people will be forced to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65. Living standards will fall and poverty rates will rise for the elderly in wealthy countries that built safety nets for seniors after World War II. In developing countries, people’s rising expectations will be frustrated if governments can’t afford retirement systems to replace the tradition of children caring for aging parents.

The problems are emerging as the generation born after World War II moves into retirement.

“The first wave of under-prepared workers is going to try to go into retirement and will find they can’t afford to do so,” says Norman Dreger, a retirement specialist with the consulting firm Mercer in Frankfurt, Germany.

The crisis is a convergence of three factors:

  •  Countries are slashing retirement benefits and raising the age to start collecting them. These countries are awash in debt since the recession hit. And they face a demographics disaster as retirees live longer and falling birth rates mean there will be fewer workers to support them.
  • Companies have eliminated traditional pension plans that guaranteed employees a monthly check in retirement.
  • Individuals spent freely and failed to save before the recession and saw much of their wealth disappear once it hit.

Those factors have been documented individually. What is less appreciated is their combined ferocity and global scope.

“Most countries are not ready to meet what is sure to be one of the defining challenges of the 21st century,” the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington concludes.

Mikio Fukushima, who is 52 and lives in Tokyo, worries that he might need to move somewhere cheaper, maybe Malaysia, after age 70 to get by comfortably on income from his investments and a public pension of just $10,000 a year.

People like Fukushima who are fretting over their retirement prospects stand in contrast to many who are already retired. Many workers were recipients of generous corporate pensions and government benefits that had yet to be cut.

Jean-Pierre Bigand, 66, retired Sept. 1, in time to enjoy all the perks of a retirement system in France that’s now in peril. Bigand lives in the countryside outside the city of Rouen in Normandy. He has a second home in Provence. He’s just taken a vacation on Oleron Island off the Atlantic coast and is planning a five-week trip to Guadeloupe.

“Travel is our biggest expense,” he says.

Under siege

The notion of extended, leisurely retirements is relatively new. Germany established the world’s first widely available state pension system in 1889. The United States introduced Social Security in 1935. In the prosperous years after World War II, governments expanded pensions. In addition, companies began to offer pensions that paid employees a guaranteed amount each month in retirement — so-called defined-benefit pensions.

The average age at which men could retire with full government pension benefits fell from 64.3 years in 1949 to 62.4 years in 1999 in the relatively wealthy countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“That was the Golden Age,” Mercer consultant Dreger says.

It would not last. As the 2000s dawned, governments — and companies — looked at actuarial tables and birth rates and realized they couldn’t afford the pensions they’d promised.

The average man in 30 countries the OECD surveyed will live 19 years after retirement. That’s up from 13 years in 1958, when many countries were devising their generous pension plans.

Great Reset Retirement

Dong Linhua, 59, speaks at his home in Shanghai, China. Dong, a former Shanghai factory worker and now a real estate investor, plans to retire soon. But government attempts to rein in pension problems may change his entitlements. (The Associated Press)

The OECD says the average retirement age would have to reach 66 or 67, from 63 now, to “maintain control of the cost of pensions” from longer lifespans.

Compounding the problem is that birth rates are falling just as the bulge of people born in developed countries after World War II retires.

Populations are aging rapidly as a result. The higher the percentage of older people, the harder it is for a country to finance its pension system because relatively fewer younger workers are paying taxes.

In response, governments are raising retirement ages and slashing benefits. In 30 high- and middle-income OECD countries, the average age at which men can collect full retirement benefits will rise to 64.6 in 2050, from 62.9 in 2010; for women, it will rise from 61.8 to 64.4

‘We have to prepare for our own futures rather than depending on our children’- Korean retiree Yoo Tae-we

In the wealthy countries it studied, the OECD found that the pension reforms of the 2000s will cut retirement benefits by an average 20 per cent.

Even France, where government pensions have long been generous, has begun modest reforms to reduce costs.

“France is a retirees’ paradise now,” says Richard Jackson, senior fellow at the CSIS. “You’re not going to want to retire there in 20 to 25 years.”

The fate of government pensions is important because they are the cornerstone of retirement income. Across the 34-country OECD, governments provide 59 per cent of retiree income, on average.

Impact of 2009 recession

The outlook worsened once the global banking system went into a panic in 2008 and tipped the world into the worst recession since the 1930s.

Government budget deficits swelled in Europe and the United States. Tax revenue shrank, and governments pumped money into rescuing their banks and financing unemployment benefits. All that escalated pressure on governments to reduce spending on pensions.

The Great Recession threw tens of millions out of work worldwide. For others, pay stagnated, making it harder to save. Because government retirement benefits are based on lifetime earnings, they’ll now be lower. The Urban Institute, a Washington think-tank , estimates that lost wages and pay raises will shrink the typical American worker’s income at age 70 by 4 per cent — an average of $2,300 a year.

Leslie Lynch, 52, of Glastonbury, Conn., had $30,000 in her 401(k) retirement account when she lost her $65,000-a-year job last year at an insurance company. She’d worked there 28 years. She’s depleted her retirement savings trying to stay afloat.

France Retirement Strike

A protester wears a placard which reads, “retirement at age 55″ during a rally in Paris, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. France has among the most generous pension systems on earth but that will change, experts say. (The Associated Press)

“I don’t believe that I will ever retire now,” she says.

Many of those facing a financial squeeze in retirement can look to themselves for part of the blame. They spent many years before the Great Recession borrowing and spending instead of saving.

The National Institute on Retirement Security estimates that Americans are at least $6.8 trillion short of what they need to have saved for a comfortable retirement. For those 55 to 64, the shortfall comes to $113,000 per household.

Asian challenges

In Asia, workers are facing a different retirement worry, a byproduct of their astonishing economic growth.

Traditionally, Chinese and Koreans could expect their grown children to care for them as they aged. But newly prosperous young people increasingly want to live on their own. They also are more likely to move to distant cities to take jobs, leaving parents behind. Countries like China and South Korea are at an “awkward” stage, Jackson says: The old ways are vanishing, but new systems of caring for the aged aren’t yet in place.

Yoo Tae-we, 47, a South Korean manager at a trading company that imports semiconductor components, doesn’t expect his son to support him as he and his siblings did their parents.

“We have to prepare for our own futures rather than depending on our children,” he says.

China pays generous pensions to civil servants and urban workers. They can retire early with full benefits — at 60 for men and 50 or 55 for women. Their pensions will prove to be a burden as China ages and each retiree is supported by contributions from fewer workers.

The elderly are rapidly becoming a bigger share of China’s population because of a policy begun in 1979 and only recently relaxed that limited couples to one child.

China is considering raising its retirement ages. But the government would likely meet resistance.

The end of pensions?

Corporations, too, are cutting pension costs by eliminating traditional defined-benefit plans. They don’t want to bear the cost of guaranteeing employees’ pensions. They’ve moved instead to so-called defined-contribution plans, such as 401(k)s, in the United States. These plans shift responsibility for saving to employees.

But people have proved terrible at taking advantage of these plans. They don’t always enrol. They don’t contribute enough. They dip into the accounts when they need money.

They also make bad investment choices — buying stocks when times are good and share prices are high and bailing when prices are low.

Several countries are trying to coax workers to save more.

Australia passed a law in 1993 that makes retirement savings mandatory. Employers must contribute the equivalent of 9.25 per cent of workers’ wages to 401(k)-style retirement accounts.

In 2006, the United States encouraged companies to require employees to opt out of a 401(k) instead of choosing to opt in. That means workers start saving for retirement automatically if they make no decision.

Easing the pain

Rebounding stock prices and a slow rise in housing prices are helping households recover their net worth. In the United States, retirement accounts hit a record $12.5 trillion the first three months of 2013.

But Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research says the recovery in housing and stock prices still leaves about 50 per cent of American households at risk of being unable to maintain their standard of living in retirement.

When they look into the future, retirement experts see more changes in government pensions and longer careers than many workers had expected.

Cuts in government pension programs like Social Security will likely hit most retirees but will probably fall hardest on the wealthy

Those planning to work past 65 can take some comfort knowing they’ll be healthier, overall, than older workers in years past. They’ll also be doing jobs that aren’t as physically demanding. In addition, life expectancy at 65 now stretches well into the 80s for people in the 34 OECD countries — an increase of about five years since the late 1950s.

“My parents retired during the Golden Age of retirement,” says Mercer consultant Dreger, 37. “My dad, who is 72, retired at 57. That’s not going to happen to somebody in my generation.”

Populist revolt in the era of Global Capitalism

Populist revolt in the era of Global Capitalism | The Secular Jurist.

http://thesecularjurist.wordpress.com

Dec 25, 2013

Storming of the Bastille

By Robert A. Vella

Storming of the Bastille

The result of the international financial crisis of 2008 is plainly evident.  The world’s financial elite perpetrated a grand profit-making scheme which, through its eventual collapse, caused a serious economic downturn that undermined middle class prosperity and robbed individual nation-states of the tax revenues necessary to maintain egalitarian society.  Some assert it was deliberately planned.  Some claim it was triggered by a combination of reckless greed and irresponsible oversight.  Others insist it occurred as a natural result of capitalism, which they see as fundamentally flawed.  Regardless, the end result was the same.

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, a new socioeconomic paradigm has emerged commonly referred to as austerity.  It mandates deep spending cuts to social safety net programs, scales back worker pension guarantees, limits collective bargaining and labor union organization, eliminates government regulations that protect citizens from corporate malfeasance, privatizes public institutions, shifts the tax burden down the income scale, and immunizes transnational businesses from the laws of sovereign countries.

Obviously, this paradigm is blatantly one-sided.  The public interest is subordinated to monied interests in virtually every respect.  Hence, disaffected people around the world are getting angry.  Peaceful demonstrations are turning into violent protests across Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, and even in Brazil.  Here’s a sampling of the latest news:

From Anti-austerity protests, strikes spread across Europe

BARCELONA — Flights and trains were canceled across Europe on Wednesday as thousands of workers took to the streets to protest austerity measures aimed at reducing massive government deficits and boosting shaky economies.

“We all know that reforms, layoffs and cuts will continue but maybe we manage to get them cut (more slowly),” said Francisco Vallejo, 41, an administrative assistant in Madrid. “The only strike that is useless is the one we don’t follow.”

Unions had called for strikes across Europe to protest the trimming of government-funded salaries and pension benefits, which had risen dramatically over the years and led to significant debt problems in some countries.

From Anti-austerity protests shut down Brussels traffic ahead of EU summit

Brussels, Dec 19 (EFE).- Anti-austerity protests by Belgian and European labor organizations and security measures deployed ahead of a European Union summit have shut down traffic in parts of Brussels.

Marches by demonstrators early Thursday clogged this capital’s main thoroughfares, especially those leading to the neighborhood where the headquarters of several EU’s institutions are located.

Some 10,000 demonstrators congregated around midday in Brussels’ EU Quarter, where the heads of state of government of the 28-nation bloc will meet on Thursday and Friday.

From Mass protest erupts in Portugal against austerity budget

Tens of hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the presidential palace Thursday in protest against the Portuguese government’s harsh austerity budget for 2014.

The protesters held high placards that read “Government Steps Down” and lit up sticks representing the new budget data. A group of protesters even took a donkey carrying loads to mock the government.

“My salary is miserable,” said Paula Valente, 46, waving a large red banner. “My salary and my husband’s salary put together aren’t even enough to make ends meet.”

Throughout recorded history, few aspects of human civilization are as certain as the incidence of populist rebellion in reaction to oppressive rule.  Although the exact circumstances which spark uprisings are difficult to predict, the basic societal conditions which produce them can be.  Essentially, it’s a question of discontent.  Once a critical mass is reached, the people will coalesce around some focal point and act out in response.

Over the past year, IMF Chief Christine Lagarde has expressed concerns about increasing social unrest throughout the world.  In a March 2013 news conference discussing the banking situation in Ireland, she remarked:

“In too many places across Ireland, people are becoming increasingly demoralized, disengaged and disenchanted…  There is a real risk of a fraying of social fabric, a breakdown of communities, of people losing faith in the system so we need renewed efforts to help these people find jobs.”

The world’s preeminent administrative establishment, a self-ordained corporatist plutocracy, understands this threat to their authority all too well.  But instead of relieving the suffering as suggested by Lagarde and countless other leaders including Barack Obama, they choose to suppress this populist dissatisfaction through increasingly authoritative means.  That is why escalating fears of an Orwellian police-state are so ubiquitous around the globe.  The popular perception is accurate.  People comprehend the nature and consequences of the NSA’s once-secret surveillance activities.  They see the killing of non-combatants by drone strikes committed in the name of counter-terrorism.  They see how peaceful protests are met with militarized aggression.  They saw how Occupy Wall Street was infiltrated and crushed by a clandestine partnership between big banks and law enforcement agencies.  They have repeatedly seen covert CIA operations against pro-worker and pro-democracy movements in places like Columbia, Chile, and scores of other foreign lands.

Even as the establishment crackdown on dissent becomes more vigorous, the frequency and strength of civil disobedience appears also to be increasing.  That begs the following question:  Can populist revolt effect fundamental change in “the system?”  Bloomberg’s Richard Youngs doesn’t think so:

Protesters today often cloak themselves in the progressive values of an ostensible liberalism, but then reject some of the core tenets of liberal-internationalist cooperation. Moreover, the lesson from the last year is that the step from protest to deeper democracy is a large and uncertain one. Indeed, unmarshaled protest can be problematic for other necessary parts of the democratic equation. Almost all protests have failed to create new political parties as a permanent legacy; India’s anti-corruption Common Man party is a rare exception.

The rise of civic protests revolves around more transient forms of political organization. It has, if anything, widened the disconnect between the civil and political spheres. Mass mobilization co-exists with the near-death of mass membership organizations such as labor unions and political parties. This may risk pushing citizens away from compromise and careful deliberation to instinctive and maximalist claims.

Youngs makes two critically important points.  First, that the political left has allowed internal fracturing over various policy concerns to disable the considerable power it once had to effect change from within the system.  Indeed, the long dormant differences between progressives and liberals that ruined the Democratic Party for decades in the U.S. – over the Vietnam War issue – are reemerging.  Just as the Baby Boomers “dropped out” in the 1970′s and 1980′s, Millennials are disengaging from traditional society on many levels.  Second, that the diminished constancy and effectiveness of the political left is generating additional populist frustrations which carries the potential for destructive extremism.  This outrage is already producing radical, and highly problematic, left/right alliances against the technocratic European Union.

The history of populist revolt provides a valuable lesson.  Seldom does it result in beneficial outcomes.  Most often, it leads to ideological forms of totalitarianism such as the monarchist, communist, and fascist regimes of Napoleon Bonaparte, Joseph Stalin, and Adolf Hitler, respectively.  Democracy, the only method of government that empowers the people, can and must effect change from within.  To destroy it, in order to destroy those who abuse it, is the epitome of reckless stupidity and self-defeatism.

Modern civilization is a house shoddily built upon a shaky foundation and is beginning to crumble.  The top-floor owners are callously content.  The renters are either attempting minor structural repairs, blissfully disinterested, or are deliberately trying to knock it down.  What a recipe for disaster.

A Call to Arms From Oz to American Academics

A Call to Arms From Oz to American Academics.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Truthout

By Salvatore Babones,

With kind permission from http://www.truth-out.org

If this is what happens in Australia – a highly developed democracy with a well-funded public broadcaster and compulsory voting for all citizens – what hope is there for the rest of the world?

 

Australia government.(Photo: Halans / Flickr)The view from Australia is unusually grim. A new kind of social disease has spread from recession in the United States to austerity in Europe to manufactured crisis in Australia. Australia, with a growing economy, an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent and falling and government debt of around 20 percent of GDP just elected a conservative government on the premise that economic mismanagement was spiraling out of control. Australia has even begun a “debt ceiling” debate of its own.

The new government has convinced the electorate that the biggest problems facing Australia today are too much environmental regulation, too little government support for coal barons, and the arrival by sea of around 25,000 refugees. To solve these problems, the government must eliminate taxes and regulations on corporations and dismantle public health insurance and public education. This in the world’s most successful advanced economy.

If this is what happens in Australia – a highly developed democracy with a well-funded public broadcaster and compulsory voting for all citizens – what hope is there for the rest of the world?

The organized forces that hold power to account are everywhere in retreat, nowhere more so than in the main centers of the English-speaking world. Unions are now next to irrelevant, so irrelevant that many of the most creative among them have stopped even trying to organize members. In 2013, fast food workers have demonstrated all around America – before and after working their scheduled minimum-wage shifts. They can’t afford to go on strike.

Journalism as a salaried profession is all but dead.

Academics in the humanities and social sciences are next in the firing line. Those of you who teach at US state universities know this only too well. Those of you who teach in the UK know it even better.

Yet academics are the last remaining salaried professionals defending civilization against the new state-corporate barbarism. After us, there are only volunteers. Valiant, dedicated volunteers, but … it is difficult to feed your family and pay the rent by volunteering in the cause of social justice.

The great sociologist Pitirim Sorokin thought that civilizations moved in epochal cycles from ideational through idealistic to sensate cultural foundations. He identified the postwar cult of science in America and the Soviet Union as the culmination of centuries of sensate culture that had begun around the time of the birth of the modern world-system in the late 1400s. A spiritualist and an optimist, he looked forward to the dawn of a new ideational Age of Faith at the close of the 20th century.

Sorokin died in 1968, in the midst of the death throes of the old sensate age. He just missed the birth of the new Neoliberal Age of faith-based economics. Forty-five years into that age, governments are defunding universities; rich individuals and corporations lavishly fund “think tanks” that produce and promote “knowledge” to support their capture of the public discourse; and even the most progressive elements of the mainstream English-language press – The New York Times, The Guardian, MSNBC, “The Daily Show”? – take the legitimacy of transnational corporate capitalism for granted.

Science – real social science, anti-scientists call it what you will – has been relegated to the role of critique, and even that critique is increasingly relegated to peripheralized publication venues. Academics implicitly accept this when they define their own appropriate role as that of “critique.” As Max Weber taught us, an important characteristic of legitimate rule is that the ruled accept the right of the rulers to rule them. So long as progressive academics define themselves as critics of power, we will never exercise power.

Neoliberal economists, their sponsors and their followers do not conceive of themselves as critical social scientists. They are in command – of the government, of the corporations and increasingly of civil society. They suffer embarrassments, but they do not suffer losses. Their Great Recession has only strengthened their grip. Even in Australia, which dodged the Great Recession through old-fashioned Keynesian demand management under a largely technocratic Labor government, the neoliberals have taken power, resoundingly.

The 1957 novel and 1959 film On the Beach is set against the aftermath of a global nuclear war. Only Australia remains habitable, and the nuclear cloud is slowly spreading into the southern hemisphere. A stray radio signal gives some hope that there have been survivors in the north, and an expedition sets out to track down the source. Finding that the signal is false, Australians decide to commit suicide rather than await a slow but certain death from the radioactive fallout.

Australian academia is still free and robust, but the poison clouds are visible on the horizon and the Geiger counter is starting to click. A sociology department has been disbanded in suburban Melbourne, a heterodox economics department in suburban Sydney. The new government pledges to end “ridiculous research grants that leave taxpayers scratching their heads.” Unionized Australian academics will fight to keep their jobs, but they are in no shape to fight for a better world.

But someone has to fight. The only alternative is to give up: to commit academic mass suicide before the poisonous cloud imposes a slow, painful death on us all. For those (quite reasonable and realistic) social scientists who prefer the pill, I suggest secure non-academic careers in market research rather than marginal academic careers in survey data analysis. For those with more quixotic personalities, Western Europe might be the best base from which to mount a counteroffensive.

As for that counteroffensive, all tenured and emeritus academics should be hoisting the banner of civilization, raising the battle-cry for justice. You have a life sinecure. Use it to do good in the world, not merely to indulge your intellectual curiosity. If we do not act now – more likely, because we did not act yesterday – all is lost. The universities have the potential to be the conscience of society, but it will take more than a few committed leftists and anarchists to have an impact. We need the rest of you, too.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

US spends billions every year prosecuting marijuana violations while economy tanks


The US economy is rapidly unraveling, vital services are being cut, and millions of Americans are losing their jobs and struggling just to survive. Meanwhile, the federal government continues to spend billions of taxpayer dollars every year to fight its endless “War on Drugs,” which includes spending about $7.7 billion a year just on enforcing marijuana laws, and preventing sick and injured patients from accessing this natural, side effect-free treatment for their ailments.

Despite numerous recent cases of relaxed or reneged marijuana laws in various US states, the federal government’s attitude towards the plant remains the same. It considers marijuana to be a dangerous street drug along the lines of cocaine and heroin, despite the fact that it is safer than prescription drugs, and provides natural relief for pain and illness without devastating side effects.

“Without [marijuana], I would be living on morphine and other horrible drugs. I couldn’t do that to my family,” said 71-year-old Marcy Dolin of Rohnert Park, Calif., to The New York Times recently. Dolin, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, smokes marijuana regularly because it is the only remedy for his extreme pain and muscle spasms that works, and that does not cause other harm.

“I used to take a drug called Neurontin, and I just never stopped crying. I was in a fog, totally depressed. I told my doctor that I was going back to just marijuana; he said he would have me arrested if he could. What are they going to do? I’m 71 years old. Are they going to put me in jail? I’m not hurting anybody. It’s just here in my own house.”

And there are literally thousands, if not millions, of other patients like Dolin that would benefit from smoking or consuming marijuana rather than dangerous prescription drugs. Most of them will likely never experience relief without excruciating side effects, thanks to current government policy that favors the drug industry at the expense of what is best for the public. After all, marijuana used to be a legal substance used in medicine, long before the days of Big Pharma‘s hijacking of the political structure that now opposes it.

Besides wasting massive amounts of money, the war on marijuana is also preventing significant economic development, according to a recent report in The Morningside Post. If legalized and effectively regulated and taxed, marijuana could generate billions of new dollars in revenue for local and state governments, and create an untold number of new jobs.

“[L]egalization of marijuana — the cessation of prosecutions and tax revenue — could put more than $13 billion into government coffers,” states the MP article.

“A look at Montana … shows how the state has been given a much needed bump from the legalization of medical marijuana. Since 2004, investors have put millions of dollars into the newly legalized medical marijuana sector, creating jobs for professional horticulturists, construction workers, and electricians put out of work by the Great Recession. This small marijuana industry created 1,400 jobs last year — this in a state with less than a million people.”

US spends billions every year prosecuting marijuana violations while economy tanks.

Celente’s Top Ten predictions for 2011

The Revelation of St John: 4. The Four Riders ...

Image via Wikipedia

By Gerald Celente
12-17-10

Wake-Up Call: Top 11 Trends of 2011

After the tumultuous years of the Great Recession, a battered people may wish that 2011 will bring a return to kinder, gentler times.
But that is not what we are predicting. Instead, the fruits of government and institutional action ­ and inaction ­ on many fronts will ripen in unplanned-for fashions. Trends we have previously identified, and that have been brewing for some time, will reach maturity in 2011, impacting just about everyone in the world.

1. Wake-Up Call In 2011, the people of all nations will fully recognize how grave economic conditions have become, how ineffectual and self-serving the so-called solutions have been, and how dire the consequences will be.

Having become convinced of the inability of leaders and know-it-all “arbiters of everything” to fulfill their promises, the people will do more than just question authority, they will defy authority. The seeds of revolution will be sown.

2. Crack-Up 2011 Among our Top Trends for last year was the “Crash of 2010.” What happened? The stock market didn’t crash. We know.
We made it clear in our Autumn Trends Journal that we were not forecasting a stock market crash ­ the equity markets were no longer a legitimate indicator of recovery or the real state of the economy. Yet the reliable indicators (employment numbers, the real estate market, currency pressures, sovereign debt problems) all bordered between crisis and disaster.

In 2011, with the arsenal of schemes to prop them up depleted, we predict “Crack-Up 2011″: teetering economies will collapse, currency wars will ensue, trade barriers will be erected, economic unions will splinter, and the onset of the “Greatest Depression” will be recognized by everyone.

3. Screw the People As times get even tougher and people get even poorer, the “authorities” will intensify their efforts to extract the funds needed to meet fiscal obligations. While there will be variations on the theme, the governments’ song will be the same: cut what you give, raise what you take.

4. Crime Waves No job + no money + compounding debt = high stress, strained relations, short fuses. In 2011, with the fuse lit, it will be prime time for Crime Time. As Gerald Celente says, “When people lose everything and they have nothing left to lose, they lose it.”

Hardship-driven crimes will be committed across the socioeconomic spectrum by legions of the on-the-edge desperate who will do whatever they must to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table.

5. Crackdown on Liberty As crime rates rise, so will the voices demanding a crackdown. A national crusade to “Get Tough on Crime” will be waged against the citizenry. And just as in the “War on Terror,” where “suspected terrorists” are killed before proven guilty or jailed without trial, in the “War on Crime” everyone is a suspect until proven innocent.

6. Alternative Energy In laboratories and workshops unnoticed by mainstream analysts, scientific visionaries and entrepreneurs are forging a new physics incorporating principles once thought impossible, working to create devices that liberate more energy than they consume.

What are they, and how long will it be before they can be brought to market? Shrewd investors will ignore the “can’t be done” skepticism, and examine the newly emerging energy trend opportunities that will come of age in 2011.

7. Journalism 2.0 Though the trend has been in the making since the dawn of the Internet Revolution, 2011 will mark the year that new methods of news and information distribution will render the 20th century model obsolete.

With its unparalleled reach across borders and language barriers, “Journalism 2.0″ has the potential to influence and educate citizens in a way that governments and corporate media moguls would never permit. Of the hundreds of trends we have forecast over three decades, few have the possibility of such far-reaching effects.

8. Cyberwars Just a decade ago, when the digital age was blooming and hackers were looked upon as annoying geeks, we forecast that the intrinsic fragility of the Internet and the vulnerability of the data it carried made it ripe for cyber-crime and cyber-warfare to flourish.

In 2010, every major government acknowledged that Cyberwar was a clear and present danger and, in fact, had already begun. The demonstrable effects of Cyberwar and its companion, Cybercrime, are already significant ­ and will come of age in 2011. Equally disruptive will be the harsh measures taken by global governments to control free access to the web, identify its users, and literally shut down computers that it considers a threat to national security.

9. Youth of the World Unite University degrees in hand yet out of work, in debt and with no prospects on the horizon, feeling betrayed and angry, forced to live back at home, young adults and 20-somethings are mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore. Filled with vigor, rife with passion, but not mature enough to control their impulses, the confrontations they engage in will often escalate disproportionately.

Government efforts to exert control and return the youth to quiet complacency will be ham-fisted and ineffectual. The Revolution will be televised blogged, YouTubed, Twittered and.

10. End of The World! The closer we get to 2012, the louder the calls will be that the “End is Near!” There have always been sects, at any time in history, that saw signs and portents proving the end of the world was imminent. But 2012 seems to hold a special meaning across a wide segment of “End-time” believers.

Among the Armageddonites, the actual end of the world and annihilation of the Earth in 2012 is a matter of certainty. Even the rational and informed that carefully follow the news of never-ending global crises, may sometimes feel the world is in a perilous state. Both streams of thought are leading many to reevaluate their chances for personal survival, be it in heaven or on earth.

11. The Mystery Trend … will be revealed upon publication of the Trends Journal in mid-January.