Debt Crisis

Signs Of The Time, Part 82

I had a tough choice to make earlier tonight- either watch President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Speech, or finish up doing laundry.

After all my clothes were put away, I saw on my Internet service provider’s home page some jibberish about how some “shadow of crisis” had passed. I pulled up a transcript of the President’s speech tonight and sure enough there was this:

America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:

The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.

At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production — we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come…

Mark my words. The “shadow of crisis” hasn’t passed. It was merely papered over. Keynesian “enlightenment,” government intervention, bailouts, stimulus packages, quantitative easing, QE 1, QE 2, QE 3, willing-and-able presstitutes, and what do we have? The Not-So-Great Recovery. Answer me this- if the economy is so strong, why have interest rates been effectively at zero for how many years now? “But Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve are going to start raising interest rates soon.” We’ll see, but if they do, I suspect rates will be raised incrementally, and I can’t help but wonder if the next few years won’t resemble the early part of last decade when a housing bubble inflated (and eventually popped) under the guise of a strong economy, but with the Fed slow on the trigger to raise rates and take way the punch bowl. This time around, we could even have multiple asset bubbles (in bonds? housing? stocks?) formed before the next installment of the longer financial crash arrives. Who knows exactly how the next crisis will play out, but I’m pretty sure the end result will be much uglier than the last episode. Not many bullets left for Uncle Sam and the central bank to use.

One more thing. “We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.” God forbid anyone scratch the surface to reveal how many more trillions of dollars of debt has been piled on our financial house of cards in order to kick the can down the road a little bit more. There’s no escaping the fact that the United States is the world’s largest debtor nation. And another inconvenient fact happens to be that taking on significant debt is akin to slavery.

“Freer to write our own future.” If only it were true. Financial reckoning day is more like it.

I’ll leave Survival And Prosperity readers with this. Back in the early 1990s while attending the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign I remember listening to a recording of “The Rat Pack” in action. Frank Sinatra was chiding Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. Now, the “Chairman Of The Board” made an observation that better describes the situation we’re in than what the President Of The United States said this evening:

You’ve had your fling and you flung it.

Enjoy the “good times” while they last, then prepare to batten down the hatches.


Scene from The Final Countdown (1980)
YouTube Video

Note that it’s not the end of the word I’m talking about here. But things will definitely suck for a while before the economy and society gets better again. By that time, we’ll probably be well on our way to having passed the baton to China.

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

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Illinois Debt Crisis Latest: $9 Billion Annual Deficit, $159 Billion In IOUs

Illinois residents are waking up to disturbing news this morning. From the “Press Room” over on the website of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois:

Illinois faces $9 billion annual deficit and $159 billion in IOUs

New analysis (PDF) by the Fiscal Futures Project finds no easy fix to Illinois’ chronic fiscal imbalance. Illinois now faces a $9 billion annual deficit that will grow to $14 billion by FY 2026.

“Years of pay-later budgeting has resulted in a massive imbalance between sustainable revenue and spending,” said Richard Dye, co-director of the Fiscal Futures Project. “Like a person in deep credit card debt, the state has been spending more than it can afford, and is covering the gap by issuing IOUs.” The report finds that the state’s IOUs now total $159 billion—more than twice the inflow of revenue in a single year. It’s a monumental problem that will require a long-term fiscal plan that includes tax increases, spending cuts, and economic growth.

The report, Apocalypse Now? The Consequences of Pay-Later Budgeting in Illinois, examines what it would take to balance the budget. The options are limited.

• Bringing back the 2011 tax increase would close only about one-half of the gap projected for the next several years.
The problem cannot be solved with spending cuts alone. Because Illinois can’t cut debt service or pension payments, it would take at least a 20 percent cut of all remaining spending to eliminate the deficit. This includes education, corrections, Medicaid, public safety, transportation, and more.
• Economic growth is also not a cure-all: an increase in the growth rate of personal income by an extra one-half percent every year for 10 years (an optimistic scenario) would only have a modest effect on the deficit.

The report concludes: “Changes in awareness, expectations, and policy are needed to restore fiscal balance in Illinois. Being saddled with paying past years’ bills means that today, Illinoisans must reduce their expectations for the services that they can expect from government and be prepared to pay more for government, now and in the future.”

(Editor’s notes: Bold added for emphasis)

Like I blogged a week ago:

A lot less government services. Much higher fees, fines and taxes.

An outcome I see for Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois residents down the road.

And plenty of Illinoisans wonder why their neighbors are high-tailing it out of the “Land of Lincoln.”

You can read a summary fact sheet or the entire report over on the IGPA website here.

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

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Illinois Diaspora Latest: Net Loss Of 94,956 People In State-To-State Migration In 2014

More evidence that Illinoisans are voting with their feet rather than be around as the “Land of Lincoln” is run into the ground. From the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board back on January 6:

Even on days when the temperature is above zero, Illinois struggles to keep people here. They’re leaving, in droves, for states with sunnier economic opportunities.

New census data and other figures reveal the cold hard truth: More people are moving away than coming, tipping Illinois last year into the dreadful category of states with declining populations. From July 2013 to July 2014, Illinois shrank by about 10,000 residents in all

Illinois suffered a net loss of 94,956 people in state-to-state migration last year, the highest rate in decades. That number is one part of an equation involving births, deaths and immigration from other countries that yields the overall population loss. But Illinois’ state-to-state migration loss is the biggest contributor to that overall population decline, Frey says. The last year Illinois had lost population was 1987-88

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The Illinois Diaspora has been a recurring-yet-unwelcome theme on Survival And Prosperity lately. I blogged as recent as January 4:

The Illinois Diaspora continues…

Gregory Karp reported on the Chicago Tribune website Friday afternoon:

Illinois was the No. 3 state in America for outbound moves in 2014, United Van Lines said Friday.

Earlier this week, Allied Van Lines said Illinois was No. 1 for outbound versus inbound moves in 2014, according to its moving data for the year. And Atlas Van Lines said Friday its data also show more people leaving the state than coming, with Illinois ranking second among states with the highest proportion of outbound moves.

Whatever, people sure seem to love to leave Illinois…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

I’m skeptical that a Republican governor now at the helm will be able to reverse the outflow- or the state’s fortunes- anytime soon. First, the Democrats who have mainly presided over the fiscal mess are pretty much still in power- sans Pat Quinn. Second, I’m awaiting the Rauner administration to announce down the road that “drastic times call for drastic measures” (or something like that) to bring the state’s economy back. I’m guessing those “measures” might not be too appealing to prospective Illinois residents, let alone those already here.

“I’m awaiting the Rauner administration to announce down the road that ‘drastic times call for drastic measures’ (or something like that) to bring the state’s economy back”

Anyone hear Governor Rauner’s multiple mentions of “sacrifice” in his inaugural address just the other day?

Stay tuned…

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

Source:

Editorial Board. “Goodbye, Illinois: residents are leaving for other states.” Chicago Tribune. 6 Jan. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-illinois-census-brookings-edit-0107-20150106-story.html). 15 Jan. 2015.

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Chicago, Cook County, Illinois Residents: ‘Sacrifice’ Looming

A lot less government services. Much higher fees, fines and taxes.

An outcome I see for Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois residents down the road.

And based on comments made by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and new Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner yesterday, our destination is in sight. Governor Rauner said in his inaugural speech Monday:

We have an opportunity to accomplish something historic: to fix years of busted budgets and broken government; to forge a path toward long-term prosperity and a brighter future; to make Illinois the kind of state others aspire to become, a national leader in job growth and education quality.

To achieve that will require sacrifice. Sacrifice by all of us- politicians and interests groups, business and labor, those who pay for government and those who depend on government’s services. Each person here today and all those throughout the state will be called upon to share in the sacrifice so that one day we can again share in Illinois’s prosperity. We all must shake up our old ways of thinking…

The 42nd governor added later on in his address:

Illinois is our home- and right now our home is hurting. But home and family are worth sacrificing for… worth fighting for. Together, let’s do the hard work to rebuild our home…

“Sacrifice.” Call me crazy, but something tells me the burden of bailing out the “Land of Lincoln” won’t be falling upon the backs of the rich and powerful.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also gave a speech yesterday in which she hinted at county residents having to make future sacrifices. John Byrne reported on the Chicago Tribune website Monday:

Preckwinkle gave a speech to the City Club of Chicago about her first-term achievements and laid out a blueprint for her second four years in office. Asked afterward about the likelihood she will be forced to raise taxes, Preckwinkle said only that it will be “a challenge” to meet the county’s financial obligations.

“We have significant challenges, both around the spike in our debt obligations and our pension obligations, and my charge to our chief financial officer is that he has to do everything he can to be creative in figuring out how to address these problems,” she said…

Preckwinkle crafted a $4 billion budget for 2015 that includes no new taxes, fines or fees. She has warned that the 2016 budget will be far trickier to balance because debt payments will increase and the county could need to come up with $144 million more to pay into the county workers retirement system if she gets the pension fund changes she has asked for from the General Assembly.

“I can’t predict now, because we don’t even have a pension bill, how much it’s going to cost or what it’s going to take, but it’s going to be a real challenge, I’ll say that,” she said Monday.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Coupled with Chicago’s financial issues, all I can say to Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois residents at this point in time is- better start figuring out a way to cope with less government services and higher fees/fines/taxes from local and state government in the coming years. The politicians can only kick the can down the road so far.

You can read Governor Rauner’s entire inaugural address on the Chicago Sun-Times website here.

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

Source:

Byrne, John. “Preckwinkle details 2nd-term plans for Cook County.” Chicago Tribune. 12 Jan. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-preckwinkle-second-term-agenda-met-0113-20150112-story.html). 13 Jan. 2015.

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Marc Faber, Jeremy Grantham, Jim Rogers, And Peter Schiff All Sound The Alarm

I find it both funny and disturbing that the financial types who missed the U.S. housing bubble/bust and global economic crisis that was readily-visible by the second half of 2008 are now claiming the U.S. economic “recovery” is on solid footing and there are no asset bubbles in sight.

Meanwhile, the few individuals who correctly-predicted that carnage- including Marc Faber, Jeremy Grantham, Jim Rogers, and Peter Schiff- are sounding the alarm again.

Here’s what each of these “crash prophets” have been saying lately (the following statements have all been blogged about previously on Survival And Prosperity).

Swiss-born investor and money manager Marc Faber warned CNBC Squawk Box viewers on September 19, 2014:

Today, the good news is we have a bubble in everything, everywhere- with very few exceptions. And, eventually, there will be a problem when these asset markets begin to perform poorly. The question is- what will be the catalyst? It could be a rise in interest rates not engineered by the Fed, because I think they’ll keep interests rates at zero on the Fed funds rate for a very long time… We could have essentially a break in bond markets at some point. We also could have a strong dollar. A strong dollar has already happened in the last two months signifies that international liquidity is tightening. And when that happens, usually it’s not very good for asset markets.

“A bubble in everything, everywhere.” Reminds me of what British-born investment strategist Jeremy Grantham said right before the asset bubbles popped during the “Panic of ’08.” Speaking of Grantham, he penned in his November 2014 quarterly investment letter entitled “Bubble Watch Update”:

I am still a believer that the Fed will engineer a fully-fledged bubble (S&P 500 over 2250) before a very serious decline…

My personal fond hope and expectation is still for a market that runs deep into bubble territory (which starts, as mentioned earlier, at 2250 on the S&P 500 on our data) before crashing as it always does. Hopefully by then, but depending on what the rest of the world’s equities do, our holdings of global equities will be down to 20% or less. Usually the bubble excitement – which seems inevitably to be led by U.S. markets – starts about now, entering the sweet spot of the Presidential Cycle’s year three, but occasionally, as you have probably discovered the hard way already, history can be a snare and not a help.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Fully-fledged bubble (S&P 500 over 2250) before a very serious decline…”

The S&P 500 stands at 2,058 this Sunday- only 192 points away from Grantham’s bubble “target.”

There’s also investor, financial commentator, and author Jim Rogers, who was talking U.S. equities on RT’s Boom Bust on December 26, 2014, when he remarked:

I know the bear market will come… The next bear market, Erin, is going to be much worse than the last one because the debt has gone through the roof. Debt worldwide, including the U.S., has skyrocketed, and we’re all going to have to pay a terrible price for all this money printing and all this debt.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Finally, there’s Euro Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff, who argued on The Schiff Report YouTube video blog on Halloween 2014:

When this illusion collapses, this fantasy of a U.S. economic recovery- because everybody believes there’s no recession anywhere in sight, that we’re years away from a U.S. recession- when in fact, another recession is right around the corner. And in fact, it will be worse than the recession that we had in 2008, 2009, if the Fed does not come in with QE 4…

I expect Janet Yellen to react to this coming recession the way Ben Bernanke reacted to the last one. The way Alan Greenspan reacted to the last one. Because that’s the only playbook we’ve got. And remember, when this recession starts, they can’t start with rate cuts. Rates are at zero. You can’t cut from zero. All they can do is revamp QE. And believe me, it’s going to have to be a lot bigger than QE 3. QE 4 is going to have to be bigger than QE 3 for the same reason QE 3 had to be bigger than QE 2- the economy builds up a tolerance. The more addicted to QE, the more QE you need to get any kind of result. And this last result was minimal in the real economy. I mean, yes- the Fed was able to get the stock market to go up, but the real economy never experienced any real economic growth. The average American is worse off today than when QE began. By far. Incomes are down. Real employment is down. Net worth is down. Poverty is up. Government dependency is up. The cost of living is up. Nothing has improved, except maybe the level of optimism on Wall Street…

This crisis is not really going to be about a credit crisis. Not private credit. It’s going to be about debt. Sovereign credit. It’s going to be about the dollar. A currency crisis. A sovereign crisis. Which is going to be very different than the crisis we had in 2008. It’s a crisis of an excess of QE. Of an overdose of QE. That’s the one that’s coming. That’s the one that we have to prepare for. That’s the one that I have been warning about since the beginning…

Schiff, who’s also a financial commentator and author, has been the most vocal of the four in warning of economic pain dead-ahead of us.

Jim Rogers talking the day after Christmas about the coming bear market alerted me to the fact that all these “crash prophets” whom I regularly-follow on this blog are now sounding the alarm at the same time. To summarize their recent warnings:

Marc Faber- “A bubble in everything, everywhere.” Actually, I believe he still likes Asia and Asian emerging economies.
Jeremy Grantham- “I am still a believer that the Fed will engineer a fully-fledged bubble (S&P 500 over 2250) before a very serious decline.”
Jim Rogers- “The next bear market… is going to be much worse than the last one because the debt has gone through the roof.”
Peter Schiff- “An overdose of QE. That’s the one that’s coming. That’s the one that we have to prepare for. That’s the one that I have been warning about since the beginning.”

At the start of 2015, it will be interesting to see how the next couple of years play out, for I believe Americans will get the chance to experience quite a bit of the above in that time period- whether they want to or not.

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

(Editor’s notes: 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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‘People Sure Seem To Love To Leave Illinois’

The Illinois Diaspora continues…

Gregory Karp reported on the Chicago Tribune website Friday afternoon:

Illinois was the No. 3 state in America for outbound moves in 2014, United Van Lines said Friday.

Earlier this week, Allied Van Lines said Illinois was No. 1 for outbound versus inbound moves in 2014, according to its moving data for the year. And Atlas Van Lines said Friday its data also show more people leaving the state than coming, with Illinois ranking second among states with the highest proportion of outbound moves.

Whatever, people sure seem to love to leave Illinois…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So where are all those former Illinoisans heading? Oregon, North Carolina, and South Carolina according to Karp.

Oregon? Must be the dream of the 90s being alive in Portland.

Regular Survival And Prosperity readers shouldn’t be surprised to hear about any of this. I blogged back on May 13 of last year:

“Diaspora- the movement, migration, or scattering of a people away from an established or ancestral homeland.”
-Merriam-Webster Online

On April 28, I blogged about a recent Gallup poll which revealed 1 in 4 Illinois residents (25 percent) say the state is the worst place to live.

On May 1, I talked about the same poll and the finding that 50 percent of Illinois respondents said they would leave the state if given the opportunity.

I had previously discussed how Illinoisans were departing the state in significant numbers.

And this morning, I read a commentary piece on the Chicago Tribune website that provided more evidence of a “diaspora” taking place from the “Land of Lincoln.” Diana Sroka Ricker of the Chicago-based non-partisan research organization Illinois Policy Institute wrote:

A startling pair of Gallup polls recently suggested that Illinoisans are an unhappy lot. Half of us would move elsewhere if we could. One in 4 says Illinois is the worst possible place to live in the entire U.S.

Naysayers claim it’s all talk. It isn’t.

Not long after the Gallup polls came out, the Internal Revenue Service released fresh numbers showing which states people are moving to and which states people are fleeing.

Spoiler: Illinois didn’t earn any positive marks in this report, either.

According to the IRS, Illinoisans don’t just want to move; they are moving. And they’ve been moving for a long time.

From 1995 to 2010, Illinois lost more than 850,000 people to other states. That’s after you offset the number of people who actually moved in.

The bleeding is bad; on net, 1 person leaves Illinois every 10 minutes.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

I’m skeptical that a Republican governor now at the helm will be able to reverse the outflow- or the state’s fortunes- anytime soon. First, the Democrats who have mainly presided over the fiscal mess are pretty much still in power- sans Pat Quinn. Second, I’m awaiting the Rauner administration to announce down the road that “drastic times call for drastic measures” (or something like that) to bring the state’s economy back. I’m guessing those “measures” might not be too appealing to prospective Illinois residents, let alone those already here.

As for me? Permanent residency in Wisconsin is still a possibility, with the move depending quite a bit on how the “Land of Lincoln” fares in the next few years. If it all goes to crap, then there’s a good chance I’ll be seeking refuge behind the “Cheddar Curtain.”

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

Source:

Karp, Gregory. “Another moving survey shows people leaving Illinois.” Chicago Tribune. 2 Jan. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/ct-illinois-outbound-moves-0103-20150102-story.html). 3 Jan. 2015.

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Jim Rogers: Coming Bear Market In Stocks Will Be ‘Much Worse Than The Last One’

Well-known investor, financial commentator, and author Jim Rogers was on RT’s Boom Bust last Friday. He spoke with host Erin Ade about stocks and commodities (among other financial topics). On stocks, Rogers told viewers:

The breadth has been terrible. Most stocks are down- most U.S. stocks are down in 2014. They’re not up, whatever the averages are doing. It’s not been a good year for most investors in nearly any asset, unless you happened to own bonds or the U.S. dollar…

When asked about a coming bear market in equities, the former investing partner of George Soros warned:

I know the bear market will come… The next bear market, Erin, is going to be much worse than the last one because the debt has gone through the roof. Debt worldwide, including the U.S., has skyrocketed, and we’re all going to have to pay a terrible price for all this money printing and all this debt.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Ade also asked Singapore-based Rogers about the greatest opportunity in commodities right now, to which he responded agriculture. The chairman of Rogers Holdings advised the audience:

Buy yourself some rice. Buy yourself some sugar…


“Jim Rogers on Russia, China, and commodities”
YouTube Video

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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Peter Schiff: Layoffs, Falling GDP, And More QE Coming

I just got done reading a December 9 commentary piece by Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff. Schiff, who correctly-called the U.S. housing bust and financial crisis last decade, pointed out that while the latest rosy jobs and GDP reports were gladly disseminated by the mainstream media, not-so-good news wasn’t shared. He observed:

In the weeks leading up to, and the days after, the recent GDP and jobs reports, a torrent of data releases came in that were almost universally awful. However, in our current era of journalistic lethargy, these reports have received almost no attention at all…

“Lethargy?” Some might argue “censorship” is a better fit, to support a particular agenda.

Anyway, Schiff went on to give a brief overview of the dismal economic data that wasn’t talked about by the MSM.

Upon completing this task, the “crash prophet” issued the following warning:

There is much in both the GDP and the Jobs Report that is dependent on forward-looking expectations. I believe that both reports are showing improvement because businesses are building inventory and hiring staff in anticipation of an economy that they believe will continue to improve. It’s like the Field of Dreams recovery, prepare for it and it will come. But I think businesses are following the false narrative, and ignoring, or rationalizing, the bad data as thoroughly as does the media. When they realize they were fooled by the hype, jobs will be lost, and GDP will fall.

Furthermore, the GDP and jobs data would certainly be far weaker if the Federal Reserve were not providing so much monetary support. Sure, they have discontinued the vast majority of the QE, but interest rates are still at zero percent. What would GDP or job growth look like if consumers, businesses, and the federal government were forced to pay anything that approaches the historically normal interest rates on our much greater than normal level of debt? My guess is that it will be awhile before we find out, as I believe that as the bloom comes off the recovery rose, the Fed will launch another round of QE before it gets around to raising interest rates.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Layoffs, falling GDP, and more QE. Quite a different tune than what the “talking heads” on the financial news networks are singing these days.

You can read Schiff’s entire commentary on the Euro Pacific Capital website here.

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

(Editor’s note: 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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Illinois Named Worst-Run State In America In 2014

“‘We don’t have the time to mess around. We are in deep, deep trouble financially,’ [Illinois Governor-elect Bruce] Rauner told a meeting of the Illinois Farm Bureau at a downtown Chicago hotel. ‘The next 24 months are going to be rough. And I apologize. I ain’t going to be Mr. Popularity for a little while. That’s OK. Four years from now I think, though, everybody will appreciate what we did.’”

-Chicago Tribune website, December 8, 2014

Talk about lists you don’t want to be on. In 2012 and 2013, Illinois was the 3rd worst-run state in the annual best- and worst-run states in America survey conducted by New York City-based financial news and opinion organization 24/7 Wall St.

So how did the “Land of Lincoln” fare in 2014? From the 24/7 Wall St. website on December 3:

How well run is your state? Assessing a state’s management quality is hardly easy. The current economic climate and standard of living in any given state are not only the results of policy choices and developments that occurred in the last few years, but can also be affected by decisions made decades ago, and by forces outside a state’s control.

Each year, 24/7 Wall St. attempts to answer this question by surveying various aspects of each state. To determine how well states are managed, we examine key financial ratios, as well as social and economic outcomes. This year, North Dakota is the best-run state in the country for the third consecutive year, while Illinois replaced California as the worst-run state

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Ouch. Worst part is, the people who brought us this mess are the same ones still in charge, more or less. It will be interesting to see how much of a difference Governor-elect Rauner- who ran on the Republican ticket- can make in the Democrat-controlled state.

24/7 Wall St. went into more detail about my home state’s latest “honor.” From the piece:

Illinois is the worst-run state in the nation. Like many other low-ranked states, more people left Illinois than moved there. Illinois lost more than 137,000 residents due to migration between the middle of 2010 and July 2013. A poor housing market may partly explain the exodus. Median home values fell 16.2% between 2009 and 2013, the second largest drop nationwide. Illinois has extremely poor finances by many measures. Just 39.3% of Illinois’ pension liabilities were funded as of 2013, worse than any other state. Further, the state’s reserves are estimated at just 0.5% of its general fund expenditure, the second lowest reserves rate nationwide. Both Moody’s and S&P gave Illinois the worst credit ratings of any state, at A3 and A- respectively. According to Moody’s, the state’s rating reflects its low fund balances and high pension obligations, as well as its “chronic use of payment deferrals to manage operating fund cash.”

As for our neighbors, Indiana is ranked 28th and Wisconsin comes in at 26th in 2014- down from 19th and 21st- respectively.

That’s quite a hit (9 places) the Hoosiers took from last year. Wonder what’s behind the drop?

Curious as to where 24/7 Wall St. ranked your state in 2014? Head on over to their website here.

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

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U.S. National Debt Surpassed $18 Trillion On Black Friday

Our financial “house of cards” continues to grow more unstable. “Tyler Durden” reported over at the Zero Hedge website Monday:

On Black Friday, total outstanding US public debt just hit a new historic level which probably would be better associated with a red color: as of the last work day of November, total US public debt just surpassed $18 trillion for the first time, or $18,005,549,328,561.45 to be precise

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Durden’s source for this information was “The Debt to the Penny and Who Holds It” section of the TreasuryDirect website from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Fiscal Service.

As of Tuesday night, that figure had actually been walked back to $17,988,139,701,976.27- to be precise.

I have no doubt it will cross the $18 trillion mark again soon enough.

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

Source:

Durden, Tyler. “Total US Debt Rises Over $18 Trillion; Up 70% Under Barack Obama.” Zero Hedge. 1 Dec. 2014. (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-12-01/total-us-debt-rises-over-18-trillion). 2 Dec. 2014.

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Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 Debt Crisis, Fiscal Policy No Comments

U.S. To Become Argentina After Financial Crash?

Of all the various threats to America today, there’s one that seems more likely to occur than the others and which I’m most concerned about.

So much so I decided to start blogging about it back on Memorial Day Weekend in 2007 as creator/editor of Boom2Bust.com, “The Most Hated Blog On Wall Street”:

A U.S. financial crash.

And seven years on and trillions of dollars later spent trying to “kick the can down the road,” I feel it’s pretty much inevitable at this point.

Cheery thought, I know. But at least it’s not the end of the world.

Actually, I think we started on that journey even before the 2008 global economic crisis and “Great Recession” reared its ugly head and was eventually “papered-up” by Washington and the Federal Reserve.

So the U.S. economy won’t be doing a high-speed nose-dive into the ground. Rather, it’s embarked on a slow, gradual descent where the end result will be the same- a pile of smoldering wreckage.

If there’s a recent example in the world the United States might end up emulating, I suspect its Argentina, who suffered a financial collapse at the end of 2001 and which still is tormented by their crash.

Enter Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre, who regular readers of this blog might remember me mentioning before. I first brought up FerFAL on Survival And Prosperity within days of launching the blog. I wrote on December 1, 2010:

Last week I mentioned that I follow a couple of blogs on a regular basis. Surviving In Argentina is one of those and is authored by an Argentine named Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre who, like Orlov, has first-hand experience of what a financial collapse looks like. In his blog, Aguirre (who has lived in the U.S.) talks about how he and his young family survived the economic crisis in Argentina and how they’re coping now. It’s a rich source of information for surviving tough times, so much so FerFAL went ahead and wrote The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse in 2009.

Aguirre recently came out with two videos on YouTube.com in which he draws on his experiences in Argentina (he resides in the United Kingdom these days) to share with viewers what life was like after the vibrant Argentine economy collapsed last decade:


“Life after an Economic Collapse: The same… only Worse Part I”
YouTube Video


“Life after an Economic Collapse: The same… only Worse Part II”
YouTube Video

I understand FerFAL plans on releasing a third video to complete the series. In the meantime, I highly-recommend watching the first two to get an idea what life might be like if (when?) the United States suffers a similar fate as that South American country. Pretty sobering stuff if you ask me.

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

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Chicago’s 2015 Budget Includes Tax And Fee Hikes

Gee, who could’ve anticipated new fee and tax hikes look to be in store for Chicago next year?

From Fran Spielman over on the Chicago Sun-Times website this morning:

[Chicago Mayor Rahm] Emanuel will campaign for re-election on a budget that raises $62.4 million through “targeted” tax hikes and closing “loopholes,” which amounts to the same thing.

People who live, work and play in Chicago will be paying more for everything from parking and vehicle leasing to cable television and stadium skyboxes…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

These individuals have been doing that for a number of years now. Hal Dardick pointed out over on the Chicago Tribune site:

As the Chicago City Council prepares to approve his latest budget Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel repeatedly has reminded voters that he didn’t raise city property taxes during his first four years in office.

But that doesn’t mean homeowners haven’t had to pay. Under Emanuel, vehicle stickers cost more. Cable TV and phone taxes went up. And water and sewer fees increased significantly…

Taken together, Emanuel’s hikes mean the typical Chicago family will pay about $481 more to the city next year than it did in 2011. That’s the equivalent of a typical Chicago homeowner paying 60 percent more in city property taxes, which are nearly $800 a year for city and library services on a $250,000 home…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Nearly $800 a year for city and library services on a $250,000 home”

In the Chicago neighborhood I recently moved out of, I’m not sure if any inhabitable houses at that price range with more than 2 bedrooms/1 bath even exists. So I’m guessing a number of my old neighbors- who already shoulder a significant tax burden for the city- will be somewhat pissed to hear of this “good news” coming out of City Hall.

That being said, it’s not exactly Chicago’s “financial reckoning day” we’re talking about here. But it’s probably not what Chicagoans want to deal with as the holiday season kicks-in.

As for the well-publicized pension crisis going on in the “Windy City,” Spielman added:

By December, 2015, the City Council must decide whether to raise property taxes — or find other new revenues — to fund a state-mandated, $550 million payment to shore up police and fire pension funds.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So a property tax hike might also be coming down the pipeline.

One more thing. Regarding the ongoing manpower shortage in the Chicago Police Department? That doesn’t look like it’s going to be resolved in 2015. From the Sun-Times piece:

Once again, the mayor’s budget includes only enough money to keep pace with retirements. It also includes roughly $70 million in police overtime, down from $100.3 million in 2013 and a projected $95 million this year…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Crime is down!” Yeah, whatever.

As always, I’m glad to see Fran Spielman and Hal Dardick are on top of their game.

What does all this mean for Chicago residents/workers/visitors?

It’s probably wise to budget a good deal more money for anything city-related next year. Even more so in 2016 considering what could be in store with the city’s public pension mess and what Cook County is telegraphing these days (blogged about Monday).

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

(UPDATE: The Chicago City Council approved Mayor Emanuel’s proposed 2015 city budget Wednesday by a vote of 46-4, and “puts off dealing with the city’s most vexing financial woes until after next year’s elections” according to the Tribune Thursday morning)

Sources:

Spielman, Fran. “Chicago City Council set to pass Emanuel’s $7.3 billion budget.” Chicago Sun-Times. 19 Nov. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/chicago-city-council-set-pass-emanuels-73-billion-budget/wed-11192014-742am). 19 Nov. 2014.

Dardick, Hal. “Higher Emanuel fees and taxes add up.” Chicago Tribune. 19 Nov. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-emanuel-budget-2015-met-20141118-story.html#page=1). 19 Nov. 2014.

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Fixed? Illinois Public Pension Gap Surpasses $111 Billion

“The Illinois General Assembly barely passed legislation yesterday that’s been touted to ‘fix’ the state’s $100 billion public pension crisis.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who has promised to sign SB0001, declared in a press release Tuesday:

Since I took the oath of office, I’ve pushed relentlessly for a comprehensive pension reform solution that would erase a $100 billion liability and restore fiscal stability to Illinois.

Today, we have won. The people of Illinois have won.

Not so fast, big guy…”

-Survival And Prosperity, December 4, 2013, post

I remember when Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed off on Illinois Senate Bill 1 (or 0001, take your pick) on December 5 of last year, talk about the State’s monstrous public pension funding gap practically disappeared overnight. But yesterday, Benjamin VanMetre of the Illinois Policy Institute- “an independent research and education organization generating public policy solutions aimed at promoting personal freedom and prosperity in Illinois”- dredged up that nightmare for Illinoisans over at their website. That “$100 billion liability” that was supposed to be “erased.” It’s now more than $111 billion. VanMetre wrote:

Illinois’ unfunded pension liability grew to more than $111 billion this year, according to official estimates. That’s a $48 billion increase just since 2009.

That $111 billion pension shortfall means the state now has only 39 cents of every dollar it should have in the bank today to pay for future benefits. In the private sector, these funds would be deemed bankrupt…

Illinois Senate Bill 1, which was touted to reduce the State’s annual pension payment by more than $1 billion, is currently facing a legal challenge. VanMetre added:

But as we wait for a decision, Illinois’ pension debt continues to grow. The state’s pension payment for the current budget year totals $6.9 billion, and without reform, that pension payment will balloon to $7.6 billion for the 2016 budget year; an increase of $681 million…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So what’s the likelihood of the courts shooting down this new public pension law? As I wrote in that December 4, 2013, post:

This legislation is almost certainly headed to court, as in the Illinois Supreme Court. As I noted on December 1, a provision of the 1970 Illinois Constitution defines public pension benefits as “an enforceable contractual relationship” that “shall not be diminished or impaired.”

And even if it passes constitutional muster, consider what I also added in that post:

As I blogged yesterday, the Wall Street Journal recently picked apart the legislative “fix,” and concluded not only was it “fake” but:

Even under the most optimistic forecasts, these nips and tucks would only slim the state’s pension liability down to $80 billion- which is where it was after Governor Quinn signed de minimis fixes in spring 2010 to get him past that year’s election…

“$80 billion.”

Stay tuned…

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

Source:

VanMetre, Benjamin. “Illinois’ Pension Debt Balloons To $111 Billion.” Illinois Policy Institute. 17 Nov. 2014. (http://www.illinoispolicy.org/illinois-pension-debt-still-ballooning/). 18 Nov. 2014.

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Peter Schiff Warns Of Coming Recession, QE 4

It’s been pretty busy around here as I play catch-up on my different Internet projects. But I did get the chance last night to view the latest entry on “crash prophet” Peter Schiff’s The Schiff Report YouTube.com video blog. What is the CEO/Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital predicting these days? Another U.S. recession and QE 4. Schiff warned:

When this illusion collapses, this fantasy of a U.S. economic recovery- because everybody believes there’s no recession anywhere in sight, that we’re years away from a U.S. recession- when in fact, another recession is right around the corner. And in fact, it will be worse than the recession that we had in 2008, 2009, if the Fed does not come in with QE 4…

I expect Janet Yellen to react to this coming recession the way Ben Bernanke reacted to the last one. The way Alan Greenspan reacted to the last one. Because that’s the only playbook we’ve got. And remember, when this recession starts, they can’t start with rate cuts. Rates are at zero. You can’t cut from zero. All they can do is revamp QE. And believe me, it’s going to have to be a lot bigger than QE 3. QE 4 is going to have to be bigger than QE 3 for the same reason QE 3 had to be bigger than QE 2- the economy builds up a tolerance. The more addicted to QE, the more QE you need to get any kind of result. And this last result was minimal in the real economy. I mean, yes- the Fed was able to get the stock market to go up, but the real economy never experienced any real economic growth. The average American is worse off today than when QE began. By far. Incomes are down. Real employment is down. Net worth is down. Poverty is up. Government dependency is up. The cost of living is up. Nothing has improved, except maybe the level of optimism on Wall Street…

This crisis is not really going to be about a credit crisis. Not private credit. It’s going to be about debt. Sovereign credit. It’s going to be about the dollar. A currency crisis. A sovereign crisis. Which is going to be very different than the crisis we had in 2008. It’s a crisis of an excess of QE. Of an overdose of QE. That’s the one that’s coming. That’s the one that we have to prepare for. That’s the one that I have been warning about since the beginning…


“The Scary Truth Behind the Halloween Rally”
YouTube Video

By 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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Flee Chicago By The End Of 2015?

April 7, 2015.

That’s the date of the next Municipal Runoff and Supplementary Aldermanic Election in the wake of the February 24, 2015, Municipal General Election in the city of Chicago, Illinois.

And that would be the ideal deadline for moving out of the “Windy City” if I still lived there due to the likelihood of fees, fines, and taxes being hiked (even more than they already have) shortly thereafter, along with additional government “belt-tightening.”

If not April 7, definitely by the end of the year. Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website right before the weekend:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and aldermen won’t grapple this fall with the financial reckoning the city faces over its underfunded police and fire pension systems, budget officials acknowledged Thursday.

Instead, the Emanuel administration plans to take advantage of a state law that gives it until December 2015 to decide to make changes to its property tax levy. For years, both the current and former mayor have been saying property taxes would have to be hiked or services drastically cut to come up with the extra $550 million.

By the end of next year, the February city elections and any potential April runoffs will be history. Delaying a decision also will buy the city more time to get the General Assembly to enact pension changes that could significantly reduce the required payments to the two retirement funds..

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Fine. So the Illinois General Assembly votes to allow the City of Chicago to “kick the can down the road” on its pension fund payments. The well-publicized crisis isn’t going anywhere, as the public sector retirees are still owed their money.

(Editor’s note: Check out this graphic on the Tribune website showing Chicago’s pension debt rank compared to the 25 largest U.S. cities and Puerto Rico. It’s disturbing.)

And how about that “Sword of Damocles” hanging over the city’s head in the form of long-term debt it’s on the hook for? Fran Spielman reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website on July 26, 2013:

The new round of borrowing brings Chicago’s total long-term debt to nearly $29 billion. That’s $10,780 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.69 million residents. More than a decade ago, the debt load was $9.6 billion or $3,338 per resident.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Remember- those figures were from a year ago. Updated numbers should be out shortly.

Yep. If I hadn’t departed the city like I did last year, I’d be making plans to leave Chicago by the end of 2015 at the latest.

But that’s me. I understand individual circumstances vary, and there are residents who can’t leave or choose not to.

Despite what others may think, I have an idea this group can still weather the coming storm if they’re really up to the task. I’m guessing it will be somewhat harder though residing in a city already burdened with significant financial problems when challenging times arrive.

More about this in future posts…

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

Sources:

Dardick, Hal. “Chicago’s day of reckoning over pensions delayed.” Chicago Tribune. 1 Aug. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-rahm-emanuel-budget-hole-met-0801-20140801-story.html). 5 Aug. 2014.

Spielman, Fran. “City of Chicago’s cash cushion plummets, debt triples, arrests drop, water use rises.” Chicago Sun-Times. 26 July 2013. (http://www.suntimes.com/21552920-761/city-by-the-numbers-cash-cushion-plummets-debt-triples-arrests-drop-water-use-rises.html). 5 Aug. 2014.

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