A job seeker waits in line with others to meet potential employers at a career fair at Rutgers University in New Brunswick
A job seeker waits in line with others to meet potential employers at a career fair at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, January 6, 2011. New claims for jobless benefits moved higher last week, but a decline in the four-week average to a nearly 2-1/2-year low suggested the labor market continues to improve. REUTERS

Investment analyst Peter Leeds is the owner and founder of financial newsletter Peter Leeds Penny Stocks, and the author of the new book "Invest in Penny Stocks: A Guide to Profitable Trading."

You’ve certainly heard the endless stream of negative economic news lately. America’s fiscal house is in trouble, job growth has stalled, and we may be driving right into a double-dip recession.

While giving their pessimistic economic outlooks, there is one thing that the doomsayers have gotten wrong: They aren’t nearly worried enough.

This isn’t going to be 2008 all over again; it will be something much worse.

This time, we’re already starting from a vulnerable position. We’ve seen the first municipal bankruptcy of many to come, in Central Falls, R.I., and with others like Jefferson County, Ala., (Birmingham) preparing to vote on declaring Chapter 11.

Global economies are exhausted, teetering on collapse. The entire fiat currency system of every nation is coming into question in a way that we have never experienced.

The eurozone is on life support. French banks are broke, Italy and Greece are both in desperate need of cash, and austerity measures come attached to each subsequent bailout. Among others, Portugal, Ireland and Spain are also hurting. The problems are being kicked down the road, but with each kick, they swell in size. Eventually, the issues become far too big to kick.

It will not be long before one of the EU nations drops the euro, defaults on its debt and reverts to its own currency. Once one goes, others will fall like dominoes, eventually taking the majority of participants out of the common currenecy. The euro will spiral downward in response.

China’s Dagong Global Credit Rating Co. has downgraded its U.S. debt rating, from A+ to A, citing doubts over Washington’s ability to pay back its debts. S&P has already dropped our credit rating by one notch. While the other credit rating agencies have held their triple-A scores for America intact, they also warned of possible downgrades going forward.

Rumors of a third round of quantitative easing are building fast. The aim is to push the $1.6 trillion in excess reserves into the economy. This will come to pass, forcing the dollar down further. Inflation will spring from the increased monetary supply, and your $1,000 retirement check suddenly buys a fraction of what it would have a few years ago.

That is, of course, assuming that you get your check at all. While coming to a debt limit deal before the Aug. 2 deadline, Congress averted a government shutdown by merely agreeing to overspend by less.

According to CNN, since 2008 more than 300,000 illegal immigrants left America to return to Mexico, because the job prospects were much better there. The Trends Research Institute reports that one-fourth of all black and Hispanic families own nothing besides a car. The Economic Times states that one in seven Americans receive food stamps.

In a few months, extended unemployment benefits for 3.7 million Americans will come to an end. Meanwhile, U.S. debt has reached 100 reached of gross domestic product, putting us in the weakest financial situation this country has ever known.

Any shock to the economy at this point could bring the whole system down. The potential of a brewing war between Israel and Iran, a spike in oil prices, bursting of the “China bubble,” or a fragmenting of the EU, could spell the beginning of America’s economic downfall.

Watching the rise in gold prices, it becomes more clear by the day that investors and nations are rapidly losing faith in fiat and paper currencies. Precious metals, historically serve as a safe haven for money, and are an internationally recognized currency, while fiat currencies like our dollar are prone to inflation and devaluation.

We’ve past the point of no return. In both America and globally, in less than two years, our societies will look very different, and possibly be almost unrecognizable.

I expect very strong inflation, fueled by loose monetary policies and an unprecedented period of near-zero interest rates.

Greece will default. Others may follow, eventually leading to a fragmentation of the majority of the European Union. The euro will drop significantly and dramatically in value.

The American dollar will also sink, as China and Japan slow or stop their loans to us, forcing our Federal Reserve to print billions in fresh money to pay for entitlements and government operations.

Precious metals will continue to rise, as inflation and freshly printed money both ramp up. Gold will approach, and possibly exceed, $2,500 per ounce, with silver topping $85. As of Aug. 11, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 10,932 and gold trading near $1,760, that puts the Dow-gold ratio at 6.2. Our expectations are for that ratio to fall to as low as 1.0 to 2.0, through a combination of stock market declines and increases in gold prices created by the decreasing purchasing power of the dollar.

You will see downgrades of America’s credit rating, due to concerns of our nation’s ability to pay back its debts. It has already started with Standard & Poor’s, and will be followed by the others. This will lead to a spike in interest rates to make American debt more attractive to foreign creditors, but that will increase costs for all consumers and businesses that have loans.

There may be massive spikes in civil unrest, as well as in crime, which are both reflections of ability of a society to eat and work. We already see riots is the UK, and all across the Middle East. We’ll see more of the same here at home.

There are specific stocks which will do well in times of uncertainty like these: specifically, those with oil or precious metals production capability, that are not hedged to metals prices for future sales, and have a long reserve life. Agricultural companies and related service stocks also rise towards the top of our list.

Keep a close watch on the news, because that will provide some warning signs. Have an eye on Europe, as that will probably be what sets off all the major troubles. Watch for increasing inflation numbers, especially in the MENA (Middle East, North Africa) region, and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations, because that inflation will eventually be exported here.

In the mean time, prepare for civil unrest and potential increases in crime and poverty. An ostrich can evade danger by burying its head in the sand, but unfortunately we can’t. Those who emerge on the other side in good shape will be those who paid the most attention to the seriousness of the facts.