Bankruptcy

Martin Armstrong Warns Illinois ‘Taxpayers Are Absolutely Screwed And This Is Not A Place You Want To Own Property’

Speaking of Martin Armstrong, I was reading the economist’s blog early Wednesday morning when I came across the following in his April 4 post entitled “Illinois on the Brink of Bankruptcy”:

The pension crisis is brewing and the one state that appears to be heading toward a complete bankruptcy is Illinois. Clients should not own ANY debt from Illinois, be it city, municipal, or state. Just get out before the curtain falls. The Illinois Constitution plainly states that pension benefits, once granted, “shall not be diminished or impaired.” Thus, taxpayers are absolutely screwed and this is not a place you want to own property

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Taxpayers are absolutely screwed and this is not a place you want to own property”

“Just get out before the curtain falls”

Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity know this has been a major concern of mine for a couple of years now. I blogged back on November 9, 2012:

Events that have unfolded at the local level on up for some time now have convinced me that my future lies outside of Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois. Which is a shame, because as I’ve mentioned before, my family has deep ties to the area. So much so a number of family members are familiar with the tale of one ancestor who fought courageously to save his tailor shop (at least the contents of it) from the approaching flames of the Great Chicago Fire back in 1871.

141 years later, another looming disaster looks to be in store for me and my loved ones if I don’t take action, and soon.

It’s bad enough Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois was already overrun by too many residents that live their lives in pursuit of the Ubi East Mea (“Where’s Mine?”) mentality and politicians who have been quick to pander to these individuals with “free” things in exchange for votes- long before last Tuesday’s election results revealed the rest of America is now marching down this same path.

But combine this with poor financial health, a bleak economic outlook, and growing attacks on the finances and freedoms of productive, law-abiding residents as politicians rob Peter to pay Paul in their attempt to remain in office- and you’ve got one hell of a mess coming to this area of the Midwest in the next few years.

Eventually, I predict the productive residents will split town (this happened before in Chicago in the late 60s-early 70s in some neighborhoods), there will be no more money for “freebies,” and the “Where’s Mine?” brigade will riot. Athens-style.

As I’ve been telling those close to me for some time now, “First you’ll see the strikes. Then the larger protests. Until finally, the riots.”

History shows you don’t want to be in the city when the riots break out.

And I don’t plan on being here in Chicago when the coming civil strife erupts either.

I split town several months after writing all that.

You can read Armstrong’s entire blog post on his company’s website here. Disturbing stuff for citizens of “Madiganistan.”

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: A qualified professional should be consulted prior to making a financial decision based on material found in this weblog. If this recommended course of action is not pursued, then it must be understood that the decision is the reader’s and the reader’s alone. The creator/Editor of this blog is not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information contained herein.)

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Jim Rogers Warns ‘We Are Going To Have Serious Problems In 2016 And 2017’

Last time I blogged about the well-known investor, author, and financial commentator Jim Rogers, I said:

It’s been interesting watching him lately attach timeframes to some of his forecasts.

I quoted a March 4, 2016, piece on the Bloomberg website where it was reported:

The famous investor said that there was a 100 percent probability that the U.S. economy would be in a downturn within one year

(Editor’s note: Blog added for emphasis)

The former investing partner of George Soros just shared another forecast- with a timeframe- in a recent interview with The Korea Times. Kim Jae-kyoung wrote on March 13:

“We are going to have serious problems in 2016 and 2017. It will be worse than 2008”

I expect markets to collapse like they did in 2008. It started in the middle of 2014 and that has been going worse and worse. I don’t know when the market will hit rock bottom but probably next year will be the worst.”

(Editor’s note: Blog added for emphasis)

Jae-kyoung added later:

Rogers said that situation is much worse now than in 2008, when the epicenter of the crisis was the U.S. But this time the crisis will be uibiquitous, he said, expecting that major economies, including the U.S., Japan and Europe, will all suffer further setbacks.

“It’s going to be the U.S. again because America is the largest debtor nation,” he said, “but this time, Portugal is going to go bankrupt, Italy is going to go bankrupt and the U.K. is going to collapse. It’s going to happen in a lot of places.”

(Editor’s note: Blog added for emphasis)

In the insightful Korea Times interview, the Singapore-based Rogers went on to share investment advice with readers, which you can read all about on the newspaper’s website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; a qualified professional should be consulted prior to making a financial decision based on material found in this weblog. If this recommended course of action is not pursued, then it must be understood that the decision is the reader’s and the reader’s alone. The creator/Editor of this blog is not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information contained herein.)

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Former BIS Chief Economist William White: ‘Situation Is Worse Than It Was In 2007’

For over a decade now, I’ve read an enormous amount of material concerning developments in the global economy/larger financial system. Particularly as it pertains to the health of that system. And not too many articles have grabbed my attention during that time like the one penned by The Telegraph’s (UK) international business editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard on their website last week. From his January 19 article:

The global financial system has become dangerously unstable and faces an avalanche of bankruptcies that will test social and political stability, a leading monetary theorist has warned.

“The situation is worse than it was in 2007. Our macroeconomic ammunition to fight downturns is essentially all used up,” said William White, the Swiss-based chairman of the OECD’s review committee and former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

“Debts have continued to build up over the last eight years and they have reached such levels in every part of the world that they have become a potent cause for mischief,” he said…

“The only question is whether we are able to look reality in the eye and face what is coming in an orderly fashion, or whether it will be disorderly”

The European banking system may have to be recapitalized on a scale yet unimagined, and new “bail-in” rules mean that any deposit holder above the guarantee of €100,000 will have to help pay for it.

The warnings have special resonance since Mr White was one of the very few voices in the central banking fraternity who stated loudly and clearly between 2005 and 2008 that Western finance was riding for a fall, and that the global economy was susceptible to a violent crisis…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

In case some readers didn’t know, the Bank of International Settlements, or BIS, is basically the bank of central banks. And White was their chief economist.

He also commented on the Federal Reserve’s interest rate quagmire. From the piece:

Mr White said the Fed is now in a horrible quandary as it tries to extract itself from QE and right the ship again. “It is a debt trap. Things are so bad that there is no right answer. If they raise rates it’ll be nasty. If they don’t raise rates, it just makes matters worse,” he said…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Crash prophet” Peter Schiff has been harping on the rate trap for some time now.

It’s one thing when someone like Schiff points out fissures in the system. And it’s another when an “insider” like William White sounds the alarm.

You can read Evans-Pritchard’s disturbing article in its entirety here on The Telegraph website.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Jeremy Grantham: ‘It May Well Be Necessary To Our Survival That We Become More Realistic’

Continuing yesterday’s discussion on investing, last night I finally got the chance to read the latest quarterly investment letter from “crash prophet” Jeremy Grantham, the British-born investment strategist and founder/former chairman of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. (currently oversees $104 billion in client assets). Here’s what December’s installment (covering the third quarter of 2015) consisted of. From “Give Me Only Good News!”:

I have noticed how hard it is to effectively pass on a warning for the same reason: No one wants to hear this bad news. So a while ago I came up with a list of propositions that are widely accepted by an educated business audience. They are widely accepted but totally wrong. It is my attempt to bring home how extreme is our preference for good news over accurate news. When you have run through this list you may be a little more aware of how dangerous our wishful thinking can be in investing and in the much more important fields of resource (especially food) limitations and the potentially life-threatening risks of climate damage. Wishful thinking and denial of unpleasant facts are simply not survival characteristics…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Grantham discussed those “propositions” and went on to conclude:

This is more or less the best I can do to prove the point. We in the U.S. have a broad and heavy bias away from unpleasant data. We are ready to be manipulated by vested interests in finance, economics, and climate change, whose interests might be better served by our believing optimistic stuff “that just ain’t so.” We are dealing today with important issues, one so important that it may affect the long-term viability of our global society and perhaps our species. It may well be necessary to our survival that we become more realistic, more willing to process the unpleasant, and, above all, less easily manipulated through our need for good news

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

While an interesting read, I was a little disappointed that Grantham (who’s individual clients have included former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry) didn’t talk about the following in his latest letter. From an August 9, 2015, post:

However, Grantham has now offered up a potential timeframe for a “major decline” in equities.

Robin Wigglesworth reported on the Financial Times (UK) website Thursday:

A well-known fund manager who foresaw the Japanese crash, the dotcom bubble and the global financial crisis has predicted that markets will be “ripe for a major decline” some time in 2016, potentially triggering government bankruptcies.

Jeremy Grantham , founder and chief investment strategist of GMO, a $118bn investment house based in Boston, expects the stock market to continue to march higher in the coming year, eventually sucking in retail investors and setting up a serious decline around the time of the US elections in late 2016.

The famously bearish and often prescient money manager said this could trigger a “very different” type of crisis, because many governments had become considerably more indebted and much of the liabilities had shifted to the balance sheets of central banks.

Given that central banks were able to create money to recapitalise themselves, this “could be a crisis we could weather”, Mr Grantham said. “If not, then we’re talking the 1930s, where you have a chain-link of government defaults.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

And from a May 4, 2015, post about his first quarter 2015 letter:

On the Federal Reserve and asset bubbles, Grantham noted:

In the Greenspan/ Bernanke/Yellen Era, the Fed historically did not stop its asset price pushing until fully-fledged bubbles had occurred, as they did in U.S. growth stocks in 2000 and in U.S. housing in 2006. Both of these were in fact stunning three-sigma events, by far the biggest equity bubble and housing bubble in U.S. history. Yellen, like both of her predecessors, has bragged about the Fed’s role in pushing up asset prices in order to get a wealth effect. Thus far, she seems to also share their view on feeling no responsibility to interfere with any asset bubble that may form. For me, recognizing the power of the Fed to move assets (although desperately limited power to boost the economy), it seems logical to assume that absent a major international economic accident, the current Fed is bound and determined to continue stimulating asset prices until we once again have a fully-fledged bubble. And we are not there yet

To remind you, we at GMO still believe that bubble territory for the S&P 500 is about 2250…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Two things I’m dying to know from Mr. Grantham right now:

1. Does he still expect “the stock market to continue to march higher in the coming year, eventually sucking in retail investors and setting up a serious decline around the time of the US elections in late 2016”?

2. Does he/GMO “still believe that bubble territory for the S&P 500 is about 2250”? The S&P was really marching towards 2,250 for a while before the index went south.

You can read the latest Grantham letter over at the GMO website here (.pdf format).

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: A qualified professional should be consulted prior to making a financial decision based on material found in this weblog. If this recommended course of action is not pursued, then it must be understood that the decision is the reader’s and the reader’s alone. The creator/Editor of this blog is not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information contained herein.)

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Jeremy Grantham: Stock Market ‘Ripe For Major Decline’ In 2016

Jeremy Grantham, the British-born investment strategist and founder/former chairman of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. (oversees $117 billion in client assets as of June 30, 2015), is the last “crash prophet” I’ll be talking about this weekend. Regular readers of this blog know Grantham, whose individual clients have included current Secretary of State John Kerry and former Vice President Dick Cheney, has warned for a year now that he believes bubble territory for the S&P 500 is about 2,250 (Friday it closed at 2,078).

However, Grantham has now offered up a potential timeframe for a “major decline” in equities.

Robin Wigglesworth reported on the Financial Times (UK) website Thursday:

A well-known fund manager who foresaw the Japanese crash, the dotcom bubble and the global financial crisis has predicted that markets will be “ripe for a major decline” some time in 2016, potentially triggering government bankruptcies.

Jeremy Grantham , founder and chief investment strategist of GMO, a $118bn investment house based in Boston, expects the stock market to continue to march higher in the coming year, eventually sucking in retail investors and setting up a serious decline around the time of the US elections in late 2016.

The famously bearish and often prescient money manager said this could trigger a “very different” type of crisis, because many governments had become considerably more indebted and much of the liabilities had shifted to the balance sheets of central banks.

Given that central banks were able to create money to recapitalise themselves, this “could be a crisis we could weather”, Mr Grantham said. “If not, then we’re talking the 1930s, where you have a chain-link of government defaults.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

A disturbing piece by Wigglesworth, which you can read in its entirety on FT.com here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein)

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Jim Rogers Predicts Crude Oil, Russian Ruble Comeback But Warns On U.S. Dollar

On Tuesday, The Economic Times (India) released an interview of well-known investor, author, and financial commentator Jim Rogers on its website. Discussing weakness in the crude oil market in light of the recent nuclear “deal” with Iran, the former investing partner of George Soros said:

Not here to stay, but certainly when you have a big collapse in anything, it hits a bottom, then there is a big rebound. We call it in America a dead-cat bounce. Then you have a test, a second test to the low.

This is going to lead to the second test to the low. There is always a reason for the second test and now we are having it, but is oil going to stay down forever? No. Remember that known reserves around the world are in decline, except for fracking. This is good news for people who consume, bad news for people who produce. But it is not the end of the story…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Rogers thinks the Russian ruble, a currency he’s been bullish about for some time now, will benefit from a crude oil comeback. Sputnik, the international news service owned and operated by the Russian government, referenced a recent interview of the Singapore-based investor on Gazeta.ru. From the news outlet Tuesday:

Concerning the current rouble situation Rogers said, “Russia has low debt, unlike Greece, as well as convertible currency, which is quite unique for the new markets. So fundamentally its position can be called normal. It is being pressured by lower oil prices, but as soon as the black gold finds the stable point the situation will improve for the rouble.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Sputnik added:

He also mentioned the dollar saying that the US currency is in a terrible situation as the US national debt and trade deficit are huge.

“If we simply write out on paper the facts that lie behind the ruble and the dollar, without naming the currency, then everyone will want to buy rubles and no one will buy dollars. But as soon as you name them then, of course, people buy dollars.”

He added that he hopes he will be smart enough to get rid of dollars before the collapse happens. “Everything seems perfect, until one day it ceases to be so. It was the same with Britain, France, Spain and Greece. Often stocks manage to go up for a few years before hitting bankruptcy.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Last I heard, Rogers still owned greenbacks. I blogged back on November 11, 2014:

Despite the above warning, Rogers shared with Reuters back on October 23 that he still owned the U.S. dollar. He explained:

I have no confidence in the long-term strength of the U.S. dollar. I only own it because I expect all this turmoil to happen. And in times of turmoil, people flee to the safe-haven of the U.S. dollar. It’s not a safe-haven, but they think it’s a safe-haven, so people will own it. That’s why I own it.

Now what I expect to happen is, the dollar will go up stronger and stronger over the next year or two, at which point- some point- I’ll have to sell it. I have no idea what I’ll do with my money then because the world has got this terrible, terrible unsound foundation in all assets.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein)

Sources:

“Crude prices may sink on more Iran oil, but will rebound as known reserves are declining: Jim Rogers.” The Economic Times. 14 July 2015. (http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/interviews/crude-prices-may-sink-on-more-iran-oil-but-will-rebound-as-known-reserves-are-declining-jim-rogers/articleshow/48066869.cms). 17 July 2015.

“US ‘Shot Itself in the Foot’ by Pushing Russia Toward China – Jim Rogers” Sputnik. 14 July 2015. (http://sputniknews.com/business/20150714/1024625814.html). 17 July 2015.

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Jim Rogers ‘Still Waiting’ For Gold Buying Opporunity, ‘My Positions Are In Asia’

Daniela Cambone of Kitco News recently spoke to well-known investor, author, and financial commentator Jim Rogers. The former investing partner of George Soros in the legendary Quantum Fund shared the following with Kitco News viewers on April 30:

I’m bullish on the Chinese market, that’s my largest country. My largest stock positions are in Asia- China, Japan, Russia is becoming bigger and bigger. So my positions are in Asia. China is going to have some problems eventually. Looks like a bubble may be developing in its stock market, and if that happens obviously it will pop someday. You’re going to see some more real estate bankruptcies in China. There’s a lot of debt build up-in China. But at the moment I’m still there. I even bought more last week

I’ve mentioned China. I mentioned Japan. Russia- I’ll probably buy more Russia today. If I weren’t talking to you I might be buying Russia right now. These are the sorts of things where I’m looking and am putting more money.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


“Gold Buying Opportunity Has Still Not Come – Jim Rogers | Kitco News”
YouTube Video

As Kitco deals in precious metals, it was only natural that the topic of gold came up in the discussion. Singapore-based Rogers had this to say about now being a buying opportunity for the yellow metal:

Well, the opportunity has not come as far as I’m concerned. I’m still waiting.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The Chairman of Rogers Holding started to say “Sometime in the next year” before offering this up to viewers:

I have no idea. I’m very bad at market timing.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Chicago To Be Run By Emergency Financial Control Board Within 2 Years?

Last Wednesday, I reminded Survival And Prosperity readers (local ones in particular) that Chicago- upon reelecting Rahm Emanuel as Mayor- remains in serious financial trouble. From that post:

As Rahm Emanuel enters his second term as Mayor of Chicago, I feel that proverbial brick wall is still fast-approaching.

Perhaps the best Chicagoans can hope for at this point is a controlled crash landing.

I know one thing. If I were still living in the city, I’d be preparing for the coming carnage…

Some readers might feel I was being a little too “sensational” with that statement. Therefore, I’d like to offer up the following for your consideration. Reuters’ Megan Davies and Karen Pierog reported on April 8:

Chicago has not seen the population losses Detroit did and its business and commercial real estate markets remain healthy, but its current circumstances are more dire than any other major American city today, with aggregate debt of $21.4 billion, up 60 percent since 2004.

Although Chicago’s situation isn’t bad enough yet to warrant a bankruptcy filing, that threat is out there if it fails to tackle its problems.

“People say Chicago’s not Detroit,” said Tom Metzold, a senior portfolio advisor at investment manager Eaton Vance. “Not right now. Chicago is Detroit ten years from now. I don’t care how economically strong your economy is. They don’t have a printing press. You can only tax so much.”

Metzold estimated the odds of a Chapter 9 bankruptcy in the next five years are “virtually zero” but said in the next 10 years that could rise to 25 percent if it fails to act

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

In case readers are wondering, Metzold’s s “Street cred” includes serving as VP and Co-Director of Municipal Investments at Eaton Vance (one of the oldest investment management firms in the U.S.- established 1924), and as its Portfolio Manager since 1991.

Not as “optimistic” about Chicago’s financial future is Joe Mysak, Editor of Bloomberg Brief. He warned in an April 8 commentary:

I’m not a betting man. If I were, I’d bet that Chicago is going to be run by an Emergency Financial Control Board, or something like it, within two years, the same as New York City back in 1975 (and until 1986)…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Mysak, who’s been covering the municipal bond market since 1981, pointed out the city’s abysmal Moody’s credit rating (“one step from the basement of investment grade”) and wrote:

So a cut to junk may well be in the cards, and with it diminished and eventually lack of access to capital. Chicago has already creatively used, and some would say abused, the municipal market to subsidize city operations…

When the banks no longer want to lend to Chicago is presumably when the state of Illinois would come in, offering cash, loan guarantees, intercession with the federal government and whatever else the city needs in exchange for external management via an Emergency Financial Control Board…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The author of the Encyclopedia of Municipal Bonds signed-off with:

Two years. That’s how long I give the city of Chicago. Good luck, Rahm.

Good luck Chicago…

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Davies, Megan and Pierog, Karen. “Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel confronts fiscal nightmare as he begins second term.” Reuters. 8 Apr. 2015. (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/04/chicago-mayor-rahm-emanuel-confronts-fiscal-nightmare-as-he-begins-second-term/). 12 Apr. 2015.

Mysak, Joe. “Next Stop for Chicago: Emergency Financial Control Board.” Bloomberg Brief. 8 Apr. 2015. (http://newsletters.briefs.bloomberg.com/document/3fz176niqylzjr6oax/commentary). 12 Apr. 2015.

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Afterthoughts: Chicago’s 2015 Mayoral Election

In case you hadn’t heard, Rahm Emanuel remains Mayor of Chicago after defeating Jesús “Chuy” García yesterday in a run-off election 55.7 percent to 44.3 percent with 98.7% of precincts reporting.

Here are some of my thoughts regarding the 2015 mayoral election in Chicago:

1. The fact that “Chuy,” a Cook County commissioner who was born in Durango, Mexico, forced Mayor Emanuel into a first-ever run-off election for the position signaled two things. One, a number of Chicago voters aren’t too happy with the way the “Rahmfather” is running the city. And two, Chicago’s Hispanics continue to flex their growing political muscle. Natasha Korecki reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website back on March 15:

According to census data from 2010, Hispanics make up just shy of 29 percent of the city’s population- but they account for only 13 to 15 percent of the electorate. (Garcia’s campaign says that number was at about 16 percent on Feb. 24.)

Should trends hold, I envision Latinos making significant gains with that percentage. Korecki added:

“The Hispanic population is the fastest-growing segment of the early-childhood population,” says Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, an Emanuel supporter. “Latinos make up 47 percent of students in CPS,. It’s a very significant population…

Last December, the U.S. Census Bureau forecasted that Hispanics will comprise 25 percent of the U.S. population within the next 30 years- up from approximately 17 percent right now.

At risk of sounding like “Captain Obvious” here, I’m thinking Chicago’s future will be a much more Latino one. Particularly as city government is concerned.

(Editor’s note: Back in the fall of 1988 I told my high school Spanish teacher I wanted to learn the language because I thought it would “come in handy” someday. Has it ever.)

2. After being forced into a run-off, the Rahm camp realized he’s rubbed a number of Chicagoans the wrong way. Which led to commercials like this:


“New Rahm Emanuel Ad: ‘I Can Rub People The Wrong Way’”
YouTube Video

So now that he’s won the run-off, what’s Mayor Emanuel “tune” now? Rick Pearson and Bill Ruthhart reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

After finishing a salad and bowl of matzo ball soup, Emanuel was asked what he learned from the runoff and whether he would, in fact, be a more inclusive mayor in his second term.

Emanuel responded by confidently saying the feedback he’d gotten from voters during the campaign would serve as his “North Star.” Asked by the Tribune if that meant he would take a different approach to running the city, Emanuel instead deflected the question by telling the reporter: “You’ll evaluate that, and my guess is you’ll tell me on a 24-hour basis.”

Pressed again on whether he had heard the voters and would change his often brusque style, Emanuel responded with just one word:

“Yeah.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Yeah. I don’t know about you, but the impression I get from that response is- something tells me old habits might be particularly hard to break with this one.

I can’t help but wonder if dead fish aren’t already on their way…

3. Chicago’s “financial reckoning day” is still fast approaching. And I don’t think it matters who’s in charge, as I believe we’re too far along in the deterioration and the required political will to do something about it just isn’t there. Still. I read a “funny” comment on the popular Chicago police blog Second City Cop earlier today. From a Tuesday night post:

Anonymous said…

Blah blah blah. The city will not go.bankrupt. We are third in the country for tourists, we have numerous international and national companies world headquarters plus we have a 100s of millions in tif funds. Commie chuy was a police hater that had no plan for this city. Rahm ain’t no picnic either but next to chuy he was a genius.

Now consider what the National Journal’s John B. Judis reported on March 30:

Chicago is facing a truly grave set of problems– problems that are essentially more extreme versions of the challenges confronting city governments across the country.

The quandaries begin with Chicago’s dramatic social divide. To an even greater extent than is the case in, say, New York or Philadelphia, Chicago has become two entirely separate cities. One is a bustling metropolis that includes the Loop, Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile, and the Gold Coast, as well as the city’s well-to-do, working-class, and upwardly mobile immigrant neighborhoods. The other Chicago consists of impoverished neighborhoods on the far South and West Sides, primarily populated by African-Americans. These places have remained beyond the reach of the city’s recovery from the Great Recession.

Meanwhile, even as it grapples with this extreme gap, Chicago is suffering from a severe fiscal crisis. Like plenty of other municipalities, Chicago lacks the revenue to pay its bills, particularly its pension obligations to city workers. According to a 2013 Pew report, 61 other U.S. cities face similar difficulties, but Chicago’s situation is one of the worst. “Voters must realize we are facing the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression,” says Roosevelt University’s Paul Green, the doyen of Chicago political experts. “If something doesn’t happen, the city is beyond the abyss.”

Those problems aren’t really Emanuel’s fault, but his efforts to fix them over the past four years haven’t yielded especially good results. For his part, Garcia—who has been at the forefront of Latino politics in Chicago for four decades and who has a history of bucking Chicago’s political establishment—has run a campaign long on general populist criticism of the incumbent, but short on credible ideas about what he would do differently.

All of which means that this election won’t yield much of a mandate for dramatic solutions to Chicago’s twin crises

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Translated: Probably doesn’t matter who won the election, because Chicago looks to “lose” with either at the helm.

Once again, the economic situation appears too far gone at this point, and the political will to truly get the city’s finances back on track just isn’t there.

I hope Judis is wrong. And I hope I’m wrong here.

But the numbers are looking pretty atrocious right now.

As much as I’d like to side with “Anonymous,” as Rahm Emanuel enters his second term as Mayor of Chicago, I feel that proverbial brick wall is still fast-approaching.

Perhaps the best Chicagoans can hope for at this point is a controlled crash landing.

I know one thing. If I were still living in the city, I’d be preparing for the coming carnage.

More on that topic soon.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Korecki, Natasha. “Getting Hispanics to the polls in Chicago mayor’s race no slam dunk for Chuy.” Chicago Sun-Times. 15 Mar. 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/7/71/438985/getting-hispanics-polls-chicago-mayors-race-slam-dunk-chuy). 8 Apr. 2015.

Pearson, Rick and Ruthhart, Bill. “’Second chance.’ Emanuel says he’s ‘humbled’ by victory.” Chicago Tribune. 8 Apr. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-chicago-mayoral-election-20150407-story.html#page=1). 8 Apr. 2015.

SCC. “Mixed Bag.” Second City Cop. 7 Apr. 2015. (http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com/2015/04/mixed-bag.html). 8 Apr. 2015.

Judis, John B. “Broken city: Rahm Emanuel and the unraveling of Chicago.” National Journal. 30 Mar. 2015. (https://www.yahoo.com/politics/broken-city-rahm-emanuel-and-the-unraveling-of-115037357316.html). 8 Apr. 2015.

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Bill Introduced To Permit Illinois Municipalities To File For Bankruptcy

Since I started blogging about a U.S. financial crash back on Memorial Day Weekend 2007, I’ve believed one casualty will be municipal government. Particularly in Illinois. So imagine my non-surprise when I spotted an article on the Chicago Tribune website a couple of days ago about proposed legislation at the state level granting Illinois towns the authority to file for bankruptcy. Nick Swedberg of the Associated Press wrote on March 26:

Stressed by pension debt, other financial issues and the possibility losing a chunk of their state aid, some Illinois cities want the option to file for bankruptcy. They’ve found an ally in a Republican lawmaker, who’s proposed legislation to allow municipalities to follow in the footsteps of Detroit and other cities in restructuring debt and paying back creditors…

Rep. Ron Sandack is sponsoring legislation that would grant authority for communities to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9 of the federal code. The Downers Grove Republican says it’s a “measure of last resort,” especially with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal in next year’s budget to cut in half the local governments’ share of state income taxes by 50 percent.

“It’s just giving time and space to do things right,” he said…

Swedberg added later in the piece:

Municipal bankruptcies are rare, NCSL data shows. Of 37 local government filings since 2010, only 8 were cities, with the majority filed by utilities and special districts.

Detroit filed for the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in July 2013, looking to restructure $12 billion of debt…

It’s true. Municipal bankruptcies haven’t happened too often. But keep in mind what Eric Weiner wrote on the NPR website back on February 28, 2008:

For most of U.S. history, cities and towns were not eligible for bankruptcy protection. But during the Great Depression, more than 2,000 municipalities defaulted on their debt, and they pleaded with President Roosevelt for a federal bailout. “All they got was sympathy,” reported Time magazine in 1933. Instead, Roosevelt pushed through changes to the bankruptcy laws that allows towns and cities to file for bankruptcy. They even got their own section of the bankruptcy code: Chapter Nine…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

There’s also this from Robert Slavin on The Bond Buyer website back on January 14:

For the municipal bond industry, 2015 marks the midpoint in what may turn out to be the decade of the bankruptcy.

Four of the five largest municipal bankruptcy filings in United States history have been made in roughly the last three years, a trend analysts attribute to the aftereffects of the 2008 credit crisis and Great Recession, as well as changing attitudes about debt.

“The crash of 2008 and five years of stagnation preceded by years of escalating wages, pensions and Other Post-Employment Benefits set the stage for our recent Chapter 9 filings,” said Arent Fox partner David Dubrow.

Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy was adopted in 1937 but had been rarely used, particularly by large governments. However, since November 2011 San Bernardino, Calif., Stockton, Calif., Jefferson County, Ala., and Detroit have filed four of the five largest bankruptcies as measured by total obligations.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Could the specter of Meredith Whitney, the “Diva Of Doom,” be returning to take revenge on the municipal bond industry?

I’m not surprised Illinois municipalities would be interested in House Bill 298. From Patrick Rehkamp and Andrew Schroedter on the website of the Chicago-based Better Government Association back on December 6, 2014:

Reasons for filing vary but often include troubled public development projects, unanticipated hefty legal judgments against a taxpayer-backed entity, or massive pension and bond debt payments that leave a municipality cash-strapped and unable to cover operating costs of employee salaries, vendor payments and other expenses.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The public pension crisis in Chicago and Illinois has been well-publicized for some time now. And while such entitlements are supposedly protected by a provision in the 1970 Illinois Constitution, the BGA noted in their piece:

In Illinois, public employee pensions are guaranteed by the state constitution. But in the Detroit and Stockton, California bankruptcy cases, federal judges have ruled that pension benefits can be adjusted, the same as other debts, despite a constitutional guarantee.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You can track the progress of HB 298 on the Illinois General Assembly website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Swedberg, Nick. “Bill pushes for possible municipal bankruptcies in Illinois.” Associated Press. 29 Mar. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-bc-il–closer-look-bankruptcy-20150329-story.html). 3 Apr. 2015.

Weiner, Eric. “What Happens When City Hall Goes Bankrupt?” NPR. 28 Feb. 2008. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=60740288). 3 Apr. 2015.

Slavin, Robert. “Why So Many Big Bankruptcies?” The Bond Buyer. 14 Jan. 2015. (http://www.bondbuyer.com/news/markets-buy-side/why-so-many-big-bankruptcies-1069539-1.html). 3 Apr. 2015.

Rehkamp, Patrick and Schroedter, Andrew. “Next Up: Illinois Municipal Bankruptcy?” Better Government Association. 16 Dec. 2014. (http://www.bettergov.org/next_up_illinois_municipal_bankruptcy/). 4 Apr. 2015.

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Survival And Prosperity
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Christopher E. Hill, Editor

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