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: Pension

Credit rating agencies downgrade Chicago debt, again

The day after the Illinois state legislature adjourned without dealing with the state’s $100 billion crisis, on Friday, November 8th Fitch Ratings downgraded $8.5 billion of Chicago’s bonds as well as its outlook for future downgrades as “negative.” Said Fitch: “The city has been unsuccessful in its attempts to negotiate a solution with labor unions [or with] the state legislature, which ultimately controls the benefit formulas [of the state’s pension plans].” This is the second downgrade by Fitch since July,

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NJ Governor Christie Denies Running for President

Newly reelected New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was busy over the weekend explaining that his focus is back on running New Jersey and not worrying about running for president in 2016. For instance, in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” Christie said:

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The Bubble in the Caribbean: Puerto Rico

This article was first published at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, October 30, 2013:

The complacency of municipal bond holders ended in July with the filing for bankruptcy by Detroit, an unhappy town of just 700,000 owing more than $18 billion to investors. Haircuts there have variously been estimated to be between 15 and 60 percent.

Since then, those holders have been looking around to find the next shoe to fall, and they have found it:

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Why are Puerto Rico’s Bond Prices Falling?

Despite the fact that Puerto Rican (PR) municipal bonds are triple-tax-exempt (no federal, state or local income taxes apply on their interest), those interest rates have skyrocketed since the Detroit bankruptcy first ended the complacency among municipal bond investors in July. High quality municipal bonds are paying little more than 1 percent annually but PR bonds, even though they remain investment grade (barely), have spiked

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“13th-month” Checks Just One More Indicator of Detroit Corruption

This article was first published at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, September 27th, 2013:

When Kevyn Orr was named Detroit’s interim financial manager by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder back in March, he was picked because he had experience in resurrecting other cities that found themselves in trouble. But it’s doubtful that Orr had any idea of the width, the breadth, and the depth of the corruption and deceit that awaited him when he began.

By June he had a better idea. In announcing that he was going to seek bankruptcy protection he said

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Detroit’s Bankruptcy Hastened by “13th Month” Checks Issued to Pensioners

When Kevyn Orr was appointed as Detroit’s interim financial manager back in March, he launched an investigation into just how deep the city’s financial hole really was. He should have waited until September when,

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First Detroit, Now Chicago?

The unfunded pension liabilities facing Chicago are only the most recent troubles threatening the Windy City, according to the New York Times. The recent credit downgrade of Chicago’s general obligation bonds by Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch just brought the matter to the surface. Crime, corruption and a shrinking population also are beginning to make Chicago look like an out-sized version of Detroit.

According to the city, the four pension plans for its police, teachers, firefighters and office staff, are all dreadfully underfunded to the tune of some

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Detroit: the First Domino to Fall

This article was first published at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, July 22nd, 2013:

 

The city of Detroit is living proof that Herb Stein is right: if something cannot go on forever, it will stop. For Detroit, it stopped last week when

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Detroit Bankruptcy: No Winners

When Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced his approval for Detroit’s emergency manager Kevin Orr to file for a municipal Chapter 9 bankruptcy, he admitted that Detroit’s problems were decades in the making:

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Consumer Confidence Not Matched by Reality

The consumer confidence numbers announced on Tuesday by The Conference Board surprised even the economists who had expected a decline rather than the nearly 10-point increase that the board reported. The index came in at 81.4 compared to economists’ expectations of

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How a Social Security defender defends Social Security

In one of the more remarkable examples of dissembling, Alicia Munnell uses the oldest trick in the book: belittle the accuser while ignoring the facts. The accuser is Prof. Laurence Kotlikoff, a professor at Boston University who is about to issue his 2013 estimate of the unfunded liability facing the US government. Currently it’s

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Detroit Creditors’ haircut: 90 percent!

At the conclusion of Friday’s 2-hour meeting of more than 180 of Detroit’s creditors, unions and pension trustees, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s plan to rescue the city from bankruptcy was met with predictable responses: lawsuits and strikes. It was an altar call to accept reality, but denial, anger and threats were the response of many. One unnamed bond holder said, “It’s just too much. It is an unprecedented amount to ask.” Mike Mulholland, secretary of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local # 207, was equally blunt: “When you’re backed into a corner, the only thing you can do is fight and the only way we can fight is to strike.”

Orr was ready for them. In his 134-page proposal, he blamed “financial mismanagement, a shrinking population, [and] a dwindling tax base … over the past 45 years [which] have brought Detroit to the brink of financial and operational ruin.” Indeed, his proposal spelled out the denial of reality that Mayor Dave Bing and his city council had been enjoying for years when it showed that Bing’s people thought that the annual deficit for the city for Fiscal Year 2013 was $47 million when the actual deficit is more than twice that, and for FY 2014 is estimated to approach $200 million. It’s no wonder that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder declared a financial emergency, and appointed bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr to take over from the city council in March.

The task facing Orr is horrifying. Faced with more than $18 billion in debts and just $68 million in the bank, Orr started off the meeting by announcing that the city would not make a $40 million payment due that day on a $2.5 billion certificate of participation (COP). He announced further that the city wouldn’t be making $104 million in pension contributions that are currently due either. In addition, retirees hoping that the city would be providing them with health care and full payouts of their pension benefits also received the bad news: they too would be forced to rely on the state’s insurance exchanges to obtain health coverage under Obamacare or Medicare, and could expect significant reductions in their retirement checks as well, approaching $800 a month in many cases.

Orr’s report was equally blunt for those hoping for a miracle: “The City is Insolvent” (Page 7): “the city is not paying its bills,” the city’s infrastructure is deteriorating, “costs associated with unoccupied property” continues to mount, the city’s credit ratings were borderline “bankrupt” by all three agencies, and “Priority One” police response times had increased in just one year from 30 minutes in 2012 to 58 minutes in 2013. In 2012 Detroit “had the highest rate of violent crime of any U.S. city having a population over 200,000 [Detroit’s population is just over 700,000, 40 percent of what it was 1950], five times the national average.”

There are “approximately 78,000 abandoned and blighted structures in the City, nearly half of which are considered ‘dangerous’ [while there are] 66,000 blighted and vacant lots within the City limits.” There are between 11,000 and 12,000 fires in Detroit every year, most of them occurring in those blighted and abandoned buildings.

Orr’s plan, on the surface, is elegant simplicity: if the creditors – pension trustees, unions, bond holders and retirees – will sit still for these massive haircuts, then the city can, under a newly created facility, borrow $2 billion to pay off the $11 billion in unsecured creditors. Orr said that translates, after other demands on that new money, to about 10 cents on every dollar owed. Secured creditors will be better off but they will be asked to take a haircut as well. If the proposal is accepted, lawsuits and strikes notwithstanding, then Orr can take this to court as a pre-packaged bankruptcy, giving him the power to enforce the agreement.

On the other hand, if his proposal can’t get sufficient agreement in the next 30 days from all interested (and now properly chastened) creditors, then he’ll ask the court to grant Detroit bankruptcy protection with himself as trustee. In essence, Orr is dealing from strength: go along with me now and get the best deal possible, or push me and you’ll get less, it’ll cost more and it’ll take longer.  Said Orr: “I have a very powerful statute. I have an even more powerful Chapter 9. I don’t want to use it, but I am going to accomplish this job. That will happen.”

There’s a constitutional issue here as well. Under the Tenth Amendment, “powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution … are reserved to the states,” which means that guarantees in Michigan’s state constitution that protect pension and retirement benefits from federal bankruptcy rulings could be put at risk in a court battle. If a high court rules that federal bankruptcy laws override state protections, then every pension plan in the country thinking it has state protection will be affected negatively, with national and perhaps even international ramifications. The municipal bond market is nearly $4 trillion in size, and such a ruling could, at the very last, unnerve that market, raising the cost of borrowing significantly, forcing other cities bordering on bankruptcy over the edge.

Michael Sweet, an attorney at Fox Rothschild who helped the city of Redmond, California restructure its finances in order to avoid bankruptcy, noted: “The last thing [union pension funds] may want is for a judge to rule on that … because if the judge ruled on that against them, it would open the floodgates” for similar cases.

 

The Clock is Ticking on Illinois Pension Reform

Two competing bills for pension reform have just passed the Illinois legislature with hopes that one of them will be passed before it adjourns for the summer on May 31st. One of them has the blessing of the teachers’ union and Democrat John Cullerton, president of the state senate. The other passed the House, and neither

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The Modern German Economic Model is a Myth – revised and updated

Dessau, a small and steadily shrinking town in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt in what used to be East Germany, is doing the best it can. Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall the anticipated “miracle” enjoyed by West Germany following World War II failed to materialize for Dessau and so it is in the process of demolishing some 10,000 empty homes and

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The Modern German Economic Model is a Myth

Dessau, a small and steadily shrinking town in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt in what used to be East Germany, is doing the best it can. Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall the anticipated “miracle” enjoyed by West Germany following World War II failed to materialize for Dessau and so it is in the process of

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Cyprus daylight robbery puts the whole European Union at risk

At least that’s the hope of Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, a quasi-liberal writing for a clearly liberal British newspaper, the Telegraph. He called the stunt that was tried and failed, at least for the time being, of robbing people point-blank in daylight, saying that

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Illinois Pension Plan Fraud on a Massive Scale

This is how the game is played: promise the rubes anything but reserve the right to break the promise. If you get caught, cover it up, admit nothing, and keep on with it. When the Securities and Exchange Commission discovered that the state of Illinois had been playing that game with its pension plan promises

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Moody’s Downgrades Britain’s Credit, Expects Little Improvement for Years

Last Friday Moody’s Investors Service announced its downgrade of the United Kingdom’s government bond ratings by one notch, from AAA to Aa1, a move that was anticipated a year ago when the credit rating agency moved its rating on UK bonds from

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New York Times Attempts to Sell the Boston Globe, Again

The New York Times announced on Wednesday that it will attempt to sell its New England Media Group for the second time in four years.

The Times bought the subsidiary which includes the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette along with BostonGlobe.com, Boston.com, Telegram.com and GlobeDirect, the Globe’s direct mail marketing company, for $1.1 billion in 1993 and if it’s able to find a buyer it will be lucky to get

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Reality Check from Cook County, Illinois: “You will lose your homes.”

No wonder the media tries to hide reality from the taxpayers. It’s too hard to take. It’s better to ignore it.

But in Cook County, Illinois, the reality can’t be ignored any more. The taxpayers are waking up to tax bills showing increases they weren’t expecting, and are flooding the treasurer’s office with complaints. Why anyone would want to be Cook County Treasurer is beyond me, but here she is: Maria Pappas. In at interview with Larry Bell, she said:

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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.