Debt Crisis

Message For Chicago, Cook County, And Illinois Readers

Readers of Survival And Prosperity might get the wrong impression that I’m rooting for Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois to “fail” based on my routine blogging about their financial, crime, and political woes.

Actually, I do this because I care deeply about the region and its residents.

It’s been my experience that Chicagoans and Illinoisans are pretty decent people overall. I’ve found many of them to be down-to-earth and quick to lend a helping hand to neighbors and strangers alike.

It’s my personal opinion that these woes (interconnected in my mind) I speak of will only intensify in the coming years. The trend is not our friend here, and if anything, since many of the people who helped bring about this mess are still in charge, is it reasonable to expect they’ll be the ones to fix it?

In the meantime, I predict many Illinoisans will be subject to varying degrees of financial and physical pain while this debacle plays out.

As this is a plausible scenario, have local readers of Survival And Prosperity contemplated what’s at stake should conditions keep deteriorating? What would be your personal exposure if events play out the way I expect them to? Financial vulnerabilities? Personal safety shortcomings? Individual circumstances will undoubtedly vary.

Are the wheels turning in your head?

Good. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish with such posts.

The intent is not to scare. Rather, it’s rooted in care.

It’s my hope that informing Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois residents of the precarious situation at hand and providing food for thought might aid successful navigation through what will likely be unfamiliar territory for most.

Wishing everyone all the best with that,

Christopher E. Hill
Editor

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Illinois Comptroller: State’s Unpaid Bill Backlog To Exceed $10 Billion By Year End

I’ve been following the State of Illinois’ unpaid bill backlog for some time now, and what State Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger shared yesterday should be of serious concern to Illinoisans. From her website:

CHICAGO- Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger on Thursday said the state’s bill backlog will grow throughout the fall and Illinois will enter the New Year with approximately $10 billion in unpaid invoices, resulting in payment delays of at least six months.

The announcement follows last month’s passage of a stopgap budget, which authorized payments that were being delayed due to the state’s year-long budget impasse.

“While the stopgap is a positive step forward, it does not address our larger fiscal challenges. When we look at the numbers we are facing, the realities are sobering,” said Munger, noting the state is on pace to spend $2.5 billion more than it takes in the next six months. “Those severe cash shortages mean my office will continue to perform triage to help those most in need and protect our most critical services.”

“The realities are sobering”

Indeed.

And I’m certain they will eventually result in- wait for it- higher/new fees, fines, and taxes in conjunction with reduced government services for Illinois residents.

There’s the real possibility of a big tax increase coming soon for Illinoisans. Consider the following from investment specialist and Illinois State Representative David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) on the website of the non-partisan, independent Reboot Illinois project on July 11:

The recent passage of a six-month unbalanced spending measure will worsen Illinois’ financial problems and likely lead to a massive tax increase.

The approval of a stopgap measure is nothing more than a continuation of the status quo that has made Illinois insolvent. The stopgap bill is a spending plan, not a real balanced budget. Consider this: About 91 percent of state government spending was on autopilot during the budget stalemate. The state has been spending money at levels that are higher than authorized during Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration. Spending continues to be out of control

With the adoption of the stopgap measure, we are ensuring the state’s financial problems will not be addressed anytime soon. Ultimately, we are guaranteeing that the state’s financial health will get much worse, which will make it easier for a tax increase to build momentum in Springfield

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You can read that entire news release from the Illinois Comptroller on her website here.

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

Source:

McSweeney, David. “Stopgap Budget Will Likely Result In A Massive Tax Hike.” RebootIllinois.com. 11 July 2016. (http://www.rebootillinois.com/2016/07/11/editors-picks/dmcsweeney/stopgap-budget-will-likely-result-in-a-massive-tax-hike/61341/). 15 July 2016.

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City Of Chicago’s Total Unfunded Liabilities Grew To Nearly $24 Billion In 2015

It’s been a while since I last blogged about the Illinois Policy Institute, a Chicago-based non-partisan research organization “generating public policy solutions aimed at promoting personal freedom and prosperity in Illinois.” Yet earlier this week, Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner published a sobering piece on the Institute’s website about Chicago’s mounting financial woes that just needs to be disseminated. From their article:

Chicago property owners concerned about their future property-tax bills have had plenty to worry about over the past year- but a new report on the city’s crumbling finances has all but ensured that property-tax hikes will continue to be a painful reality for local homeowners.

The city already passed a $700 million hike in October 2015 to help plug the hole in police and firefighter pensions, and the city is expected to raise property taxes by another $250 million to fund ailing Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, pensions. And with billions more in other health care and pension shortfalls still unfunded, more hikes are on the way.

But the newest debt numbers in the city’s 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, or CAFR, show that without massive pension reforms, the city’s tax hikes are just beginning. The report found that the total city debt Chicagoans are on the hook for has more than tripled since 2014.

Chicago’s total unfunded liabilities have jumped by over $17 billion, growing to nearly $24 billion in 2015 from $6.5 billion in 2014. The increase is mostly due to new accounting standards and the fact that in March the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the city’s recent attempt to reform its broken municipal-workers and laborers pension funds.

Add to that their share of sister-government and Cook County pension and health care costs and long-term debt, and Chicagoans are on the hook for over $65 billion

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Disturbing stuff. But that’s reality for you.

You know, last week I read an “interesting” anonymous comment on the popular Chicago police blog Second City Cop. From the July 7 post entitled “And There it is….”:

Millennials as they are called are falling over themselves to move here. Look at Ukrainian village, Buck town south loop West loop, Lincoln Park. The city is becoming gentrified. Major companies are moving their headquarters here. City is on the upswing like it or not.

“City is on the upswing like it or not.”

Never mind its financial cancer that’s bound to metastasize in due time…

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

Sources:

Dabrowski, Ted and Klingner, John. “Chicago’s Total Debt More Than Triples To Over $24B In 2015.” Illinois Policy Institute. 11 July 2016. (https://www.illinoispolicy.org/chicagos-total-debt-more-than-triples-to-over-24b-in-2015/). 14 July 2016.

SCC. “And There it is…” Second City Cop. 7 July 2016. (https://www.illinoispolicy.org/chicagos-total-debt-more-than-triples-to-over-24b-in-2015/). 14 July 2016.

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Signs Of The Time, Part 108

After blogging back on June 21 about the next round of property tax bills due to hit Cook County, Illinois, residents’ mailboxes in the coming days, I told my girlfriend to pay attention to the local mainstream news outlets as there would be no shortage of pissed-off Chicago homeowners (their hit an average 13 percent higher than last year) airing their grievances.

Sure enough, I was watching Chicago ABC affiliate Channel 7 Tuesday when the following segment appeared near the top of the evening news broadcast:


“Cook County Property Tax Bills Cause Outrage”
ABC Chicago Video

“Higher/new fees, fines, and taxes in conjunction with reduced government services going forward”

Truly a sign of the times for Chicagoans… and an increasing number of other Americans.

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

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Cook County, Illinois, Faces $174 Million Shortfall

From the Cook County, Illinois, website (under “News) last Thursday:

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today released the preliminary forecast for the County’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget, signaling that difficult financial choices are on the horizon as the County develops its budget over the next several months.

Preckwinkle announced a projected operating shortfall for FY2017 of $174.3 million…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website on June 30:

A year after reversing course and reinstating a hefty sales tax increase that helped spell the political demise of her predecessor, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday warned of more potential tax hikes to come.

Without cuts or additional taxes, fines and fees — or some combination of those options — the county expects to fall more than $174 million short of what would be needed to pay the bills in the budget year that starts Dec. 1.

Closing the gap “will not be easy, but residents will be assured that we will do so by making tough decisions required,” Preckwinkle said while presenting her preliminary budget in an annual ritual that invariably includes significant shortfall projections.

The county will focus on cutting costs, but “everything is on the table,” including tax increases and layoffs, Preckwinkle said

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Dardick noted that the Cook County Board President ruled out hiking property taxes this time around.

Like I’ve been warning for a number of years now- Chicagoans, Cook County residents and Illinoisans should expect higher/new fees, fines, and taxes in conjunction with reduced government services going forward.

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

Source:

Dardick, Hal. “Preckwinkle: Tax hike, budget cuts on table as county faces $174M shortfall.” Chicago Tribune. 30 June 2016. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-cook-county-budget-shortfall-met-0631-20160630-story.html). 5 July 2016.

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Chicago Pastor Calls On State Of Illinois To Declare ‘State Of Emergency’ Over Financial Woes

One Roman Catholic priest in Chicago is sounding the alarm over the financial health of both the City of Chicago and State of Illinois. Tom Schuba blogged on the NBC Chicago website Monday:

Father Michael Pfleger, the outspoken pastor at St. Sabina’s church in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, called on the state of Illinois to declare a state of emergency amid dire economic situations in Chicago and Illinois

The city’s broke, the state’s broke and dysfunctional and in downstate Illinois when a hurricane happens, a tornado happens, what do we do,” Pfleger asked. “We call a state of emergency and resources are brought in.”

Pfleger encouraged using federal resources to embolden communities and bolster the police force…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

While I don’t see eye-to-eye with Fr. Pfleger on gun “control” (a subject for which he routinely makes the local news headlines), I do agree with him that some sort of action is required to tackle both Chicago’s and the State of Illinois’ fiscal problems, and that “bolstering” of the Chicago Police Department is necessary.

You can read the entire piece on the NBC Chicago website here.

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

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More Financial Pain For Many Chicago Homeowners In The Coming Days

When it comes to keeping on top of the latest financial developments coming out Chicago, I’ve been out of the loop lately (no pun intended).

As if that really mattered. Like I’ve been saying for some time now- the writing is on the wall for the “Windy City” concerning its finances.

I’ve also pointed out time and time again Chicagoans should expect higher/new fees, fines, and taxes (in conjunction with less government services) going forward.

Case in point- the next round of property tax bills. Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website last week:

Chicago homeowners should brace themselves for sticker shock when they open their mailbox at the end of the month: property tax bills on average 13 percent higher than last year.

The big increase is mostly being driven by the record tax increase Mayor Rahm Emanuel engineered last fall to fix city pension funds for police officers and firefighters.

Cook County Clerk David Orr released tax rate figures Monday, revealing the practical effects of City Hall’s painful decision. The owner of a single-family home with the current average sale price of about $225,000 can expect to see a property tax bill of $3,633, an increase of about $413

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Compare this to an overall 9.3 percent citywide increase over the last three years, according to Dardick.

And just this morning one local TV news broadcast reported that the Chicago Teachers Union is demanding Mayor Emanuel raise taxes even more for school funding.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that more financial pain is heading Chicagoans’ way.

As for the rest of Cook County, the Tribune piece noted:

By comparison, homeowners in suburban Cook County typically can expect more modest increases, averaging 2 percent, although they already are paying substantially more than their city counterparts, according to Orr’s data…

Last I checked County finances weren’t too pretty either, so these suburban homeowners may very well be in the same boat as their city counterparts down the road.

For more information, check out Dardick’s entire article here on the Tribune website.

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

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Chicago’s 2016 Memorial Day Weekend: 7 Killed, 68 Wounded

Regular Survival And Prosperity readers may have noticed I haven’t blogged too much about Chicago recently. Reason being? I’ve grown tired of pointing out the obvious, which is the writing’s on the wall for the “Windy City,” and that scene is bound to get real ugly before conditions can improve. However, this afternoon I feel compelled to make an exception as “Beirut By The Lake” was seriously hopping over the long holiday weekend. The HeyJackass! (“Illustrating Chicago Values”) website breaks down the carnage under a section entitled “Memorial Day Weekend”:

This weekend marks the start of the annual Summer Stupidity & Shooting Season. Between now and Labor Day weekend, we’ll expect to see around 225 homicides and an additional 1,000 shot and wounded.
Final Stupidity Tally: 7 killed, 68 wounded
2015 weekend tally: 8 killed, 24 wounded
2014 weekend tally: 9 killed, 27 wounded

“7 killed, 68 wounded”

It should be noted that last weekend’s shootings weren’t confined to those areas of Chicago one might reasonably expect such violence to take place. Alexandra Chachkevitch, Joe Mahr, Peter Nickeas, and Grace Wong observed on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

The rest of the weekend shootings were scattered across Chicago. They happened as far north as West Rogers Park and northwest as Jefferson Park and as far south as the West Pullman neighborhood. The violence centered on the West Side, though. Seven of the shooting incidents on the West Side had more than one victim…

Only a matter of time now before there’s renewed talk of bringing in the Illinois National Guard, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or U.S. Army to patrol the streets of Chiraq.

And rounding up all the guns….

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

Source:

Chachkevitch, Alexandra , Mahr, Joe, Nickeas, Peter, and Wong, Grace. “Memorial Day weekend closes with 69 shot in Chicago, many of them on West Side.” Chicago Tribune. 31 May 2016. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-shootings-memorial-day-20160530-story.html). 31 May 2016.

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Signs Of The Time, Part 104

In the May 2016 issue of The Atlantic there’s an article entitled “The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans.” Neal Gabler writes:

Since 2013, the Federal Reserve Board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?

I didn’t know.

But I’m really not surprised to learn of it either.

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

Source:

Gabler, Neal. “The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans.” The Atlantic. May 2016. (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/05/my-secret-shame/476415/). 24 May 2016.

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Peter Schiff: Obama, Federal Reserve, Government Have Failed As ‘This Economy Is A Disaster’

Economist, financial broker/dealer, and author Peter Schiff appeared on the Alex Jones Show last Friday. Schiff, who correctly-called last decade’s housing crash and recent global economic crisis, discussed a number of subjects with Jones, including Puerto’s Rico’s recent default/economic crisis and “modest” U.S. inflation numbers. The “crash prophet” said of the U.S. territory:

It’s never a problem until it is. So Puerto Rico is broke, but now it’s a problem because the creditors figured out that they’re broke. Well America is more broke than Puerto Rico. That’s a fact. It’s just that our creditors haven’t figured it out yet. But when they do, then Donald Trump is going to end up being right, because all we can do is default. And if we don’t default, if we print money- which now Trump is saying, “Oh, we don’t have to default because we can print.” Well printing is worse than default, because printing doesn’t just wipe out the bondholders, it wipes out anybody who hold U.S. dollars.

When asked by Alex Jones where all the inflation is being hidden, the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital pointed out:

It’s actually hiding in plain sight because, because first of all, the inflation is all the money printing. That’s the definition. The consequence of inflation is that prices go up. But look, stock prices went way up. Real estate prices went back up. Rare art went back up. Collectible cars went back up. I mean, asset prices have gone up like crazy- that is inflation. And, of course, anybody who lives in America knows that the prices are going up. Look, rents are up about 8 percent year-over-year. Look how much health care costs have gone up. Utilities are going up. Look at the price of food. Have you bought a steak recently at a supermarket? Prices are going up. It’s just that the government is not doing an accurate job of reporting, and that is by design…. The standard of living is going down. Americans are working two or three jobs a piece. And they can barely make ends meet. You know, this economy is a disaster. And everyone wants to pretend that it’s great, because no one wants to admit that Obama is a complete failure, that the Federal Reserve was a complete failure, that everything that government has done has failed.


“Venezuela Is America’s Socialist Future”
YouTube Video

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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Christopher E. Hill, Editor

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