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Three Disturbing Economic Trends for 2013

Daily Ticker

Updated at 12:58 ET

We may have rung in the New Year with wall-to-wall "fiscal cliff" coverage, but when it comes to the major economic news of 2013, some of the most profound stories are at risk of going unnoticed says Paul Brandus, founder of the West Wing Reports and columnist at The Week.

In a recent article, Brandus highlights 5 trends "we should focus on more (but sadly won't) in 2013."

He joins The Daily Ticker's new co-host Lauren Lyster in the accompanying interview to discuss three of his five "disturbing" trends for 2013.

1. We're headed to the poorhouse

According to reports, 75% of Americans have only $30,000 saved for retirement, a reminder of the country’s bleak personal savings level.

Related: America’s Retirement System Is Failing Us: Economist

And that’s not all.

Social Security may be up for reform (though President Obama decided not to raise the eligibility age in the fiscal cliff deal), a further reminder that the nation’s unfunded liabilities remain at the forefront of a fiscal balancing act that isn’t going to magically straighten itself out.

Related: Social Security Is the Best-Funded Government Program: David Cay Johnston

And pensions, which in the old days rounded out a three-legged stool of retirement, are disappearing.

This may not amount to front-page news but it is nonetheless a potential disaster for retirees.

“I think it’s going to come to a head in the next couple of years,” Brandus says. “Those three things put together really pose challenging times for folks not just nearing retirement but for younger people as well who have, perhaps, doubt about whether they’ll have any of those things when their turn to retire comes along.”

And while the retirement stool teeters, forcing Americans to lean more on their personal savings, the policies in place encourage spending and growth at the expense of savings. Brandus concedes that this balancing act between savings and low-interest rates is a tricky problem with no simple answer.

2. The Erosion of Public Trust

Compounding the aforementioned problems, Brandus argues, is a broad erosion of public trust in those making the crucial decisions.

He notes that only 7% of Americans trust members of Congress.

“It’s hard to get anything done when people don’t trust the people in positions of authority,” he says of a trend that extends to business executives and bankers alike.

Related: What's Inside America's Banks? No One Knows, Says ProPublica's Jesse Eisinger

3. The Water Crisis

This summer's drought -- the worst in the U.S. in the last 50 years -- is just the beginning of the nation's water crisis. Brandus also points to the severe water loss due to faulty infrastructure. Upgrading the aging infrastructure will cost the government an estimated $1 trillion.

It's hard to imagine where the estimated $1 trillion will be found in an era of staggering, trillion dollar U.S. budget deficits.

The Other Disturbing Trends

Brandus says the failure to connect the dots among complex economic issues is another "disturbing" trend. For example, millions of private-sector job openings have been left unfilled due mismatches between skills and positions.

The “extinction crisis" is Brandus' fifth trend to watch. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, "30 to 50 percent of all species are possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century." This includes animals, rain forests, coral reefs, grasslands, tundra and the polar seas.

It turns out the tiny honeybee may be headed for extinction right along with Americans’ nest eggs.

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