Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: liabilities

How Do You Spell Apocalyptic? Don’t Ask the Congressional Budget Office

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, April 11, 2018: 

All one needs to do is view the first page of the CBO’s 166-page report on its 10-year outlook for the U.S. economy and government spending that was released on Monday to see why: it features a graph that shows better than words just where we’re headed. Two lines diverge: one, showing government revenues; the other, government outlays. The gap, instead of narrowing, widens dramatically into the future. Unfortunately, the graph cuts off in 2028, leaving one wondering: what happens next?

The CBO report reflected the new law, happily called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, that was passed in December. Its previous projection, made by the CBO last June, showed a deficit of $563 billion for 2018, rising to $689 billion next year. Now, with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act behind them, the CBO now projects this year’s deficit to be $804 billion and next year’s to be just a touch below a trillion dollars, at $981 billion.

The CBO, considered by many to be less partisan than projections coming from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), covered itself with this disclaimer:

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Trump’s Budget a Mixture of Hope, Optimistic Assumptions, and Statistics

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, February 14, 2018: 

Mark Twain attributed his quote about statistics to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: “Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the [freedom] of arranging them myself … there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Mark Mulvaney, Trump’s OMB director, must feel the same way. There’s enough statistical smoke and mirrors in the president’s “An American Budget” to, in the words of Tevye [the dairyman in Fiddler on the Roof] “cross a Rabbi’s eyes.”

First, Mulvaney admits that this MAGA budget won’t balance, ever. The government is too big and growing too fast for the economy that funds it ever to catch up. So he and the president decided to ignore a balanced budget and go for the next best thing: show the economy growing faster than the government is growing and someday, eventually, the deficits will start to shrink when compared to the economy itself.

The numbers “prove” the conclusion: for fiscal year 2018 (which ends this coming September 30), government revenues of $3.3 trillion compared to government spending of $4.2 trillion will leave a gap – a deficit – of $873 billion, equivalent to 4.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. In the following years that annual deficit is projected to grow to $987 trillion in 2020, equivalent to 4.5 percent of the country’s GDP. Only by 2022 does that percentage begin to decline based on the assumption that government spending is only $4.9 trillion while tax receipts would hopefully be $4.1 trillion.

That is the crux of the new math in Trump’s budget:

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New Jersey Governor Ignores Pension Crisis, Wants More Spending

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, January 17, 2018: 

English: Teachers at New College Nottingham pr...

Teachers protesting over proposwed cuts to government pension plans.

While running for governor of New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy was asked what he would do about the state’s overwhelming pension crisis, and he waffled: there’s “no easy answer,” he said. He added that the state would have to do something about the problem. Said Murphy, “The state has to stand up for its side of the bargain. Period. If the state doesn’t, there’s no use in having [any further] discussion.”

Murphy was inaugurated as the New Jersey’s 56th governor on Tuesday and promptly forgot all about the pension tsunami about to engulf the state. Instead he offered both a “wish list” and a “to-do list” for his supporters and Democratic legislators in attendance. His “wish list” contained the usual collection of liberal promises, while his “to-do” list is what he wants the state legislature to bring to his desk within the next 30 days.

His “wish list” was a rehash of his campaign promises — long on generalities but short on specifics — including legalizing marijuana, protecting illegal immigrants from ICE, providing free tuition at the state’s community colleges, eliminating “tax breaks” that large corporations are allegedly unfairly enjoying, investing state funds in more costly “green energy” projects, and paying for it all by raising taxes on those few millionaires still residing in one of the country’s highest-tax states.

He was much more specific with his “to-do” list. He ordered the state’s liberal and heavily Democratic legislators to get off the snide and send him six bills within the next 30 days, each of which, said Murphy, “will be met with a signing ceremony.” Their marching orders from Murphy included new funding for “women’s health” and Planned Parenthood, raising the minimum wage in the state to $15 an hour, mandating “equal pay” for women, requiring employers in the state to provide paid sick leave to their employees, passing laws removing barriers to having illegals vote, and, of course, additional attacks on the state’s more than three million law-abiding gun owners.

He mentioned not a word about the state’s pension crisis, which has been brewing for years and accelerating nearly exponentially. It’s not that Murphy doesn’t know about the crisis or its extent and potential for bankrupting the state. In 2005, acting New Jersey Governor Richard Codey convened a commission to study “the problem,” naming Phil Murphy as its head. In its conclusion, that study urged the state in no uncertain terms to end immediately all “pension holidays” (the skipping of payments to the state’s five pension plans for a period of time), to avoid actuarial “gimmicks” commonly used to make those liabilities appear to be smaller than they actually are, and to eliminate borrowing to pay the state’s contributions. It also recommended a series of reforms, including an end to pension “spiking” (by which employees can sweeten their final payouts as they approach retirement), and raising the age at which plan beneficiaries could retire with full benefits. That last recommendation, which was never implemented, would have raised the full-benefit retirement age from 55 to 60.

So Murphy cannot claim ignorance. He is also certain to know of the accounting chicanery that took place last year, i.e., using the state’s lottery program to help pay the state’s pension contributions. But it was chicanery taken to level of audacity rarely seen even in states as corrupt as New Jersey. Instead of demanding that the lottery’s annual $1 billion proceeds flow into the pension funds’ coffers, the legislature actually transferred the entire program into those coffers and then declared that the future value of those annual proceeds (happily and likely generously estimated at more than $13 billion) was now an asset, reducing (on paper at least) the amount of the unfunded liability.

Moody’s Analytics was not impressed: “The lottery transfer does not change the state’s weak [and] steeply rising pension contribution schedule. [Even after the transfer] there remains considerable risk that the state will be unable to afford rapidly growing pension contributions.”

Also not impressed were two senior fellows at the Manhattan Institute, who just released their study of New Jersey’s pension problems. In January, well before Murphy neatly demurred on even mentioning them, the authors concluded: “It is highly unlikely that New Jersey will generate enough new revenues to meet its pension obligations without severely hobbling the rest of the state’s budget. At the same time, allowing its pension system to continue to accumulate debt by not contributing adequately to it will push New Jersey toward a potentially catastrophic failure of its government pensions.”

At the moment, those five government pension plans have the lowest funding ratio of any state in the union, with a liability estimated to be $124 billion. Those plans are only 30-percent funded currently and declining with each passing day.

But Murphy’s term is for only four years, and if he wins reelection, his tenure ends in eight years. Those plans will likely remain in place, continuing to threaten pensioners who still think they will be getting their benefits, and threatening the state with bankruptcy if it tries to fund them properly. But Murphy will be long gone, proving once again the old adage: Politicians come and go, but the unfunded promises they make live long after them.

As the Fed Shrinks Its Balance Sheet, Nothing Can Go Wrong

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, September 20, 2017:

Investors and Wall Street gurus, seers, and prognosticators paid attention on Wednesday to the emanations from the Federal Reserve board meeting, hoping to glean more of the details about the “great unwinding” of the Fed’s enormously bloated balance sheet. In June, Fed Chair Janet Yellen suggested that the time was drawing near to begin reducing the Fed’s balance sheet and there were at least two ways to start: letting maturing bonds “roll off” instead of reinvesting the proceeds in new issues, and liquidating, ever so slowly, some U.S. treasuries, starting at $10 billion a month in October. That liquidation would increase on a quarterly basis until it topped out at $50 billion a month.

The goal, it was suggested, was to

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Illinois Republicans Override Governor’s Vetoes, Stiff Taxpayers in Budget Deal

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, July 7, 2017:

Lisa Madigan, Illinois state attorney general,...

Lisa Madigan. step-daughter of Michael Madigan, and, not surprisingly, Illinois’ state Attorney General. Just a coincidence.

When House Speaker Michael Madigan finally engineered the override of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of his budget bill on Thursday, he called it a victory:

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Illinois Countdown to Junk Status Continues

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, June 29, 2017:

English: IL State Rep. Susana Mendoza 2011 Pho...

Susana Mendoza

Despite the clock’s ticking on the downgrade of Illinois’ $25 billion of indebtedness to junk status on midnight Friday, investors remain complacent. True, some mutual funds have offloaded $2 billion of Illinois debt in the last few months, but the Wall Street Journal provided salve to investors’ concerns that those remaining invested will be badly hurt. Unnamed analysts, wrote the Journal, “predict prices would drop only a few cents in the event of a junk downgrade.” They noted that Vanguard Group has $1.2 billion of Illinois bonds spread across seven of its bond mutual funds, with a company spokesman saying that it is “comfortable with the risk/reward” of investing in the state’s bonds.

Besides,

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Illinois Governor calls for “Unity,” Offers “Compromise” that is a “Capitulation”

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, June 23, 2017: 

When politicians call for unity, they usually mean “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.” In the case of Illinois, Governor Bruce Rauner (shown)’s Tuesday night closed door compromise offer to intransigent Democrats to get them to agree to a budget before the June 30 deadline was called a capitulation by The Wall Street Journal:

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Illinois Governor Gives Tax Increases to Placate Democrats Before Deadline

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, June 22, 2017: 

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (shown), speaking briefly to a closed session at the state house on Tuesday night, urged “unity” in solving the state’s staggering and rapidly accelerating financial problems. Those present reported afterward that the governor declared, “Failure to act [on his budget proposal] is not an option. Failure to act may cause permanent damage to our state that will take years to overcome.”

The state has already suffered massive damage.

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Is Illinois Admitting that it is a “Failed State”?

This article was published by TheMcAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, June 16, 2017:

The Constitution guarantees every state a republican form of government. Other than that it focuses on the legitimate functions of the national or federal government. The states were invited, as most of them did, to adopt similar state constitutions, limiting state powers to providing essential services: courts, police protection and, over time, other services like power, fire protection, roads, and the like.

There are global indexes of failed states, with many of them naming Somalia as the best (worst) example: crime, corruption, short life spans, poor medical help, and wrenching poverty are the rule there. But with its admission that it can no longer pay general contractors to construct its roads, is Illinois becoming a failed state? Those contractors just received this letter from Illinois:

Dear Contractor:

At this time appropriate funding is not available after June 30, 2017. Thus, work shall cease effective June 30, 2017.

Please bring all projects to a condition that will provide a clear and safely traveled way….

On July 1, 2017, all work shall cease except for maintenance … the department will notify you when work may resume.

Right now the state has $14.5 billion in unpaid bills, an increase of nearly $4 billion just since the end of December, with no end in sight. When Republican Governor Bruce Rauner (above) took office in January 2015 he promised he would bring order out of chaos by cutting government spending, and reining in out-of-control pension benefits and excessive teacher and administrative salaries. In brief, he managed to challenge directly state House speaker Michael Madigan, who, along with Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, has sold out to the teacher unions. When Rauner proposed cutting pension plan contributions, the Supreme Court ruled that he couldn’t – that the state constitution guaranteed that the contracts were inviolable and fully enforceable. That’s when things went downhill. With no possible agreement over state spending – the state has been operating on a pay-as-you-go basis without a budget for nearly three years – unpaid bills began piling up as those contributions had to be paid first and other creditors were forced to take a back seat.

Mathematics and politics are directing Illinois’ future. The math is daunting: with $130 billion in unfunded pension liabilities (which continue to increase despite making the state making the court-required contributions), $14 billion in unpaid bills (and increasing daily), wealthy companies and individuals leaving (Illinois leads the nation in depopulation), property and sales taxes among the highest in the nation, and credit ratings that are eight full notches below the other states in the union, there’s no place to go but down from here.

The state’s inability to rein in its spending has caused a ripple effect, touching the state’s institutions of higher learning. They have been forced to raise tuition and borrow just to stay open and now the credit rating agencies have been busy downgrading their debt issues as well. On June 9, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded seven Illinois universities, with five of them now rated as junk.

As the Illinois Policy Institute noted, the budget stalemate “has led to cuts in state appropriations to Illinois universities. But the universities’ financial difficulties started [long] before the state’s budget gridlock and are largely of their own doing. Illinois colleges and universities have long overspent on bloated bureaucracies and expensive compensation and benefits, prioritizing administrators over students.”

On Wednesday, the president of one of those seven universities just downgraded – Northern Illinois University’s Doug Baker – suddenly announced that he will resign at the end of the month. This followed a bombshell state watchdog report that he and his administrators skirted state bidding requirements by improperly hiring consultants and paying them exorbitant salaries and benefits.

With the millions being poured into the state in support of a Democrat to replace Rauner in 2018, his initial support is melting away. Two-thirds of the populace supported Rauner in 2015, but as of March that support is less than forty percent.

If Rauner is replaced by a Democrat in 2018, then the combination of Democrat policies (and politics) and mathematical inevitability will turn Illinois into a failed state: unable to protect its citizens (see Chicago crime statistics), unable to build and maintain its roads, protecting one class of citizens at the expense of another, and unable to provide education for its citizens or a healthy regulatory climate for small businesses.

If Illinois isn’t a failed state, it will become one shortly. Just ask the general contractors who just received the “Dear Contractor” letter.


Sources:

Illinois Policy Institute: ILLINOIS’ UNPAID BILLS JUMP TO $14.3B

MishTalk.com: Unable to Pay Bills, Illinois Sends “Dear Contractor” Letter Telling Firms to Halt Road Work on July 1

Illinois Policy Institute: MOODY’S DOWNGRADES 7 ILLINOIS UNIVERSITIES, 5 ARE JUNK

Politico: How Illinois became America’s failed state

Heritage.org: Illinois: The Anatomy of a Failed Liberal State

Chicago Tribune: Miller: Illinois in danger of becoming a failed state

Definition of a Failed State

Chicago Tribune: Northern Illinois University president to resign after report alleges mismanagement

 

Illinois Sends “Dear Contractor” Letters Ordering Them to Stop All Road Construction

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, June 15, 2017: 

English: A photograph of the Springfield Capit...

A photograph of the Springfield Capitol Building

Illinois contractors working on the state’s roads just received a “Dear Contractor” letter from the state ordering them to halt work because the state is out of money to pay them:

At this time appropriate funding is not available after June 30, 2017. Thus, work shall cease effective June 30, 2017.

Please bring all projects to a condition that will provide a clear and safely traveled way….

On July 1, 2017, all work shall cease except for maintenance.… The department will notify you when work may resume.

Right now the state has $14.5 billion in unpaid bills, an increase of nearly $4 billion just since the end of December, with no end in sight. When Republican Governor Bruce Rauner took office in January 2015, he promised he would bring order out of chaos by

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Puerto Rico’s Vote for Statehood Means Nothing

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, June 12, 2017:

Despite 97 percent of Puerto Ricans voting for statehood in Sunday’s plebescite, the chances of adding the island as the country’s 51st state are between slim and none.

The island’s voters had three choices on Sunday’s ballot: Stay as a U.S. territory, move ahead with statehood, or seek full independence as a sovereign nation. This is the fifth vote on the issue since 1967, with the first three failing to gain a majority vote for statehood. That majority is required for the U.S. Congress to consider it. The fourth vote was marred by some 500,000 voters boycotting it to protest the ballot allegedly being rigged in favor of statehood.

The chances this time aren’t any better.

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Puerto Rico’s Governor Seeks an American Taxpayer Bailout

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, June 12, 2017:

Ever since he announced his campaign for governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, who was installed as the island’s new governor in January, has been pushing for statehood. Offloading his country’s financial problems onto American taxpayers is the American way. By gaining statehood, Puerto Rico would be poorer than Mississippi, the poorest of the American states, and therefore would be the likely recipient of federal largesse by the truckload. As Rossello said so clearly,

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Credit Rating of Illinois Cut Again to One Notch Above Junk

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, June 2, 2017: 

English: 1987 Illinois license plate

The day after Illinois failed to reach a budget agreement (for the third year in a row), Moody’s Investors Service followed S&P Global Ratings by downgrading the state’s credit rating to just one notch above junk status. The legislature has 30 days to come up with a budget or else the state’s rating will be downgraded further to junk status.

Moody’s was blunt in its assessment of the rolling catastrophe: “Legislative gridlock has sidetracked efforts not only to address pension needs [$129 billion in unfunded liabilities] but also to achieve fiscal balance [the state has $14.5 billion in unpaid bills with $800 million in late fees and penalties adding to the total]. Moody’s analyst Ted Hampton added:

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Pew Research: Gap Between Promises and Assets Widens for State Pensions

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, April 24, 2017:

A RETIRED COUPLE FROM CALIFORNIA STOP TO FISH ...

After reviewing the investment results for 230 public pension plans for the last two years, Pew reported last Thursday that, despite strong recent stock market performance, the gap between liabilities (promises) and assets for those plans widened by 17 percent, to $1.4 trillion. Put another way, those plans should have nearly $4 trillion in assets to enable them to keep their promises. The latest data shows them with just over $2.5 trillion instead.

Said Greg Mennis, director of the project,

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Three Stock Market Indicators Spell Trouble for Pension Fund Managers

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, April 24, 2017:

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...

Warren Buffett

Michael Lombardi is a bear. Canadian-born, Lombardi has been dishing out investment advice for decades. He is getting nervous. And so should pension fund managers trying to make up for lost time.

In his March newsletter, Lombardi looked at the Warren Buffett Indicator:

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Social Security Disability Fraud Hides the Biggest Fraud of All

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, April 12, 2017:

English: Mug shot of Charles Ponzi (March 3, 1...

Mug shot of Charles Ponzi (March 3, 1882 – January 18, 1949).

The Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General reported in 2015 that nearly half of the nine million people receiving SSI (Supplemental Security Insurance) benefits were being overpaid, running up $17 billion in excess disbursements over the previous 10 years.

Such overpayments were just the beginning of the story. On Monday, a former Kentucky attorney pleaded guilty to filing more than 1,700 false SSI disability claims in a scheme that netted him millions in fees that he lavishly dished out to his co-conspirators: a Social Security administrative law judge and a psychologist, among others. In his plea bargain, former attorney Eric Conn fingered Judge David Daugherty (whom he said birthed the scheme originally) and Dr. Alfred Adkins.

The fees that Conn collected ran into the millions, while Social Security dished out some $550 million in benefits to beneficiaries who willingly participated, some of them saying later that they didn’t really know what was happening but were happy to pay Conn $200 in cash under the table for his “advice” and assurance that their claims would be approved.

The setup was simple:

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Social Security Disability Fraudster Just Tip of the Iceberg

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, April 11, 2017: 

A former Kentucky attorney pleaded guilty on Monday to filing more than 1,700 fake disability applications under Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The complex scheme netted Eric Conn millions in kickbacks while costing SSI an estimated $550 million in phony benefits paid out to unsuspecting beneficiaries.

Conn’s plea bargain accused his co-conspirators, psychologist Alfred Adkins and Social Security Administrative Law Judge David Daugherty along with other unnamed individuals, of working with him in the scam. Conn claimed that the scheme was hatched originally by Daugherty.

The setup was simple:

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The PBGC is Falling. Where is Superman When He is Needed?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, March 3, 2017:

In the 1978 film Superman, Lois Lane is caught mid-air by Superman who says: “Easy, miss. I’ve got you.” Responds Lois: “You – you’ve got me? Who’s got you?

Concerning government agencies making promises, the answer is always and everlastingly: the U.S. taxpayer.

For example, consider the 42-year-old government agency backing up single-employer and multi-employer pension plans:

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Federal Insurance Agency Backing Union Pensions Facing Crisis Itself

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, March 2, 2017: 

Logo of the United States Pension Benefit Guar...

When Teamsters Local 707’s pension plan ran out of money in February, it sought assistance from the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Said PBGC Director Tom Reeder:

This is a big issue for us. It’s a big issue for Local 707 and it’s a big issue for others in the same situation across the country.

 

We’re projected to run out of money in eight to 10 years. Many union pension plans are projected to run out in 20 years.

The federal insurance agency is now paying out $1.7 million every month to the stranded retirees of Local 707.

707’s problems have been decades in the making.

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Dallas Pension Plan Solution: Everyone Shares the Pain

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, February 22, 2017: 

Downtown Dallas in the background with the Tri...

Downtown Dallas in the background with the Trinity River in the foreground.

Following the pension plan board meeting on Monday, Presidents’ Day, a decision was made to accept the rough outlines of a proposal by Texas House Pensions Committee Chairman Dan Flynn to keep the Dallas police and firefighters pension plan from going bankrupt. Said city council member Philip Kingston, “Flynn’s [plan] is the best of the bad options.”

Everyone involved will share the pain: some by having their benefits cut back, and some by having the contributions increased.

Under the Summary issued late Monday night:

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.