Government

Cook County Public Pension Fix Could Mean Property Tax Hike

Blog readers in Cook County, Illinois, should prepare themselves for the possibility of higher property taxes shortly. Hal Dardick and Monique Garcia reported on the Chicago Tribune website Friday:

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is trying to revive a plan to overhaul government worker pensions, with supporters arguing the proposal is vastly different from changes to state retirement benefits recently struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court.

The proposal would cut benefits and raise retirement ages but also guarantee health care benefits for workers when they retire. It calls for the county to put almost $147 million more a year into the pension fund, though Preckwinkle continues to be vague about how she’ll fund that increase by repeatedly saying “all options are on the table.”

If the County Board chooses to foot the bill with a property tax increase, the average homeowner would pay up to $65 more a year starting in 2017, according to one internal county document the Tribune obtained when Preckwinkle sought the same legislation last year.

That measure was approved by the Senate last year but stalled in the House. It is now scheduled to be heard by a panel of House lawmakers next week…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Readers shouldn’t be surprised about the prospect of higher property taxes. I blogged back on January 13:

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)

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

Source:

Dardick, Hal and Garcia, Monique. “Preckwinkle tries again on Cook County pension changes.” Chicago Tribune. 15 May 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-cook-county-pension-proposal-met-20150515-story.html). 17 May 2015.

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Chicago’s Credit Rating Lowered By Fitch Ratings, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s

The three major U.S. credit rating agencies have downgraded the City of Chicago this past week. Last Tuesday, Moody’s announced on its website:

Rating Action: Moody’s downgrades Chicago, IL to Ba1, affecting $8.9B of GO, sales, and motor fuel tax debt; outlook negative

Also downgrades senior and second lien water bonds to Baa1 and Baa2 and downgrades senior and second lien sewer bonds to Baa2 and Baa3, affecting $3.8B; outlook negative

New York, May 12, 2015 — Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded to Ba1 from Baa2 the rating on the City of Chicago, IL’s $8.1 billion of outstanding general obligation (GO) debt; $542 million of outstanding sales tax revenue debt; and $268 million of outstanding and authorized motor fuel tax revenue debt…

In case readers didn’t notice, that was a two-notch downgrade from “Baa2″ to “Ba1.”

According to Moody’s “US Municipal Ratings,” “Ba” indicates “Issuers or issues rated Ba demonstrate below-average creditworthiness relative to other US municipal or tax-exempt issuers or issues.”

In other words, “junk.”

A day later, Moody’s was at it again, lowering the Chicago Board of Education’s credit rating. From their site on May 13:

Moody’s downgrades Chicago Board of Education, IL’s GO to Ba3; outlook negative

Ba3 rating applies to $6.2 billion of GO debt

New York, May 13, 2015 — Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded to Ba3 from Baa3 the rating on the Chicago Board of Education, IL’s $6.2 billion of outstanding general obligation (GO) debt. The Chicago Board of Education is the primary debt issuer for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) (the district). The outlook remains negative…

A three-notch downgrade. And even worse “junk.”

Standard & Poor’s joined in on the downgrade parade later in the week. From a press release Friday:

Chicago, IL GO Bond Ratings Lowered To #A-# From #A+#, Placed On CreditWatch Due To Short-Term Liquidity Pressure

CHICAGO–15 May–Standard & Poor’s

CHICAGO (Standard & Poor’s) May 14, 2015–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered its rating to ‘A-‘ from ‘A+’ on the city of Chicago’s outstanding general obligation (GO) bonds, and placed the ratings on CreditWatch with negative implications…

According to the S&P website, “A” indicates:

Somewhat more susceptible to the adverse effects of changes in circumstances and economic conditions than obligations in higher-rated categories. However, the obligor’s capacity to meet its financial commitment on the obligation is still strong.

Fitch Ratings was the last of the three major credit rating agencies to the party, releasing the following Friday on their website:

Fitch Downgrades Chicago, IL’s ULTGOs and Sales Tax Bonds to ‘BBB+'; Ratings on Negative Watch

Fitch Ratings-New York-15 May 2015: Fitch Ratings has downgraded the ratings on the following Chicago, Illinois obligations:

–$8.1 billion unlimited tax GO bonds to ‘BBB+’ from ‘A-‘;
–$546.5 million (accreted value) sales tax bonds to ‘BBB+’ from ‘A-‘;
–$200 million commercial paper notes, 2002 program series A (tax exempt) and B (taxable) bank bond ratings to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+’.

At the same time, the ratings have been placed on Negative Watch…

According to the Fitch Ratings website, “BBB” indicates:

Expectations of default risk are currently low. The capacity for payment of financial commitments is considered adequate but adverse business or economic conditions are more likely to impair this capacity.

You can read the May 12 Moody’s press release on their website here. The May 13 Moody’s release is here. Standard & Poor’s press release can be found here (on thailand4.com) and the Fitch Ratings release on their website here.

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

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Marc Faber Warns ‘Have At Least Some Money In Precious Metals’ And Store It Overseas

Swiss-born investment advisor/money manager Marc Faber was just interviewed by Simon Black over at Sovereign Man, a provider of global financial intelligence and solutions. The publisher of the monthly investment newsletter The Gloom Boom & Doom Report talked about the need of investors to be in precious metals, and where to store it. In the exchange that was uploaded to the Sovereign Man website on May 8, Dr. Faber told listeners:

The only currencies that I regard as significantly undervalued at the present time are the precious metals- silver, gold, platinum, palladium. And I would advise any investor to have at least some money in precious metals. The problem is, as a very informed reader of mine said, if precious metals really one day work out- in other words, gold goes to $10,000 an ounce- you can be sure that the government will take it away from you. That is a threat.

As you know in the world- since you are running an organization Sovereign Man- there is a move to curtail freedom, and there is a move to abolish paper money… If I were your listeners and I held gold, if paper money is abandoned or banished, about the last thing you want to hold is gold because it will be taken away as well. So you better close down your accounts at Citi, in my view. Put your money somewhere, anywhere in the world, except in U.S. banks.

Back in February, Faber warned in a King World News interview:

The central banks and the governments will try to take the gold away from ordinary people, you understand? I think they know that this would be one solution for the global financial system to peg it again to some extent on gold. But before they do that, I think they’ll go after you and me and say, “Okay, parasites of society that do not spend but keep their money in gold that is unproductive- let us take it away.” That is the threat. I’m not worried about the price of gold. What do I care if the gold price is at $1,000 or $500 or $1,500 or $5,000? What I care is that I can keep ownership of gold.

You can listen to that Sovereign Man interview in its entirety on their website here (precious metals discussion starts at 13:59).

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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Tax Hikes Coming As Illinois Public Pension Crisis ‘Fix’ Shot Down By State Supreme Court?

This weekend Illinoisans heard about the Friday ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court on a law that was celebrated by many as a big step in resolving the state’s well-publicized public pension crisis. Rick Pearson and Kim Geiger reported on the Chicago Tribune website Friday:

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled unconstitutional a landmark state pension law that aimed to scale back government worker benefits to erase a massive $105 billion retirement system debt…

At issue was a December 2013 state law signed by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn that stopped automatic, compounded yearly cost-of-living increases for retirees, extended retirement ages for current state workers and limited the amount of salary used to calculate pension benefits.

Employee unions sued, arguing that the state constitution holds that pension benefits amount to a contractual agreement and once they’re bestowed, they cannot be “diminished or impaired.” A circuit court judge in Springfield agreed with that assessment in November. State government appealed that decision to the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that economic necessity forced curbing retirement benefits.

On Friday the justices rejected that argument, saying the law clearly violated what’s known as the pension protection clause in the 1970 Illinois Constitution…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Can’t say I was too surprised to hear that ruling handed down.

As for the ramifications on Main Street? Pearson and Geiger added:

The ruling means Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly will have to come up with a new solution after justices appeared to offer little in the way of wiggle room beyond paying what’s owed, which likely would require a tax increase. Coming up with a way to bridge a budget gap of more than $6 billion already was going to be difficult with little more than three weeks before a scheduled May 31 adjournment, and now the pension mess has been added to the mix.

Rauner, who argued during last year’s campaign that the law was unconstitutional and didn’t go far enough to reduce the pension debt, said the court ruling only reinforces his approach of getting voters to approve a constitutional amendment that “would allow the state to move forward on common-sense pension reforms.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“A constitutional amendment”

I’m not so sure how that would work out. Consider what Natasha Korecki reported over on the Chicago Sun-Times website Friday:

But it was unclear how such an amendment would help solve the crisis. It arguably could not bring savings because, according to the court ruling, a new law cannot retroactively affect those who are already in the system, said Charles N. Wheeler III, Director of the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield…

“Likely would require a tax increase”

I suspect- as Survival And Prosperity has been warning for some time now- that Illinoisans will soon be hit with significantly-higher taxes as a consequence of those $6 billion state budget and $105 public pension gaps. Korecki added:

An Illinois Supreme Court ruling that struck down a pension reform law on Friday could have just opened the door even wider to the prospect of deep cuts to services and new taxes for Illinois residents.

With only three weeks left until lawmakers have to pass a balanced budget, legislators now have even more political cover to raise taxes and cut spending following the high court’s decision that it was unconstitutional for the state to pare back promised pension benefits for state employees…

“This ensures that however we resolve this, the citizens of Illinois will be paying more for less service from the state of Illinois,” Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of the University of Illinois at Springfield, said of Friday’s ruling. “I think that’s an inevitable outcome from this.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Less government services. Higher fees, fines, and taxes.”

Something I’ve kept warning about on this blog, with regular observers of Springfield now talking it about these days (if they weren’t already).

I wonder to what extent Illinoisans have prepared/are preparing for such a scenario? I’ll be talking more about this later.

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

Sources:

Pearson, Rick and Geiger, Kim. “Illinois Supreme Court rules landmark pension law unconstitutional.” Chicago Tribune. 8 May 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-illinois-pension-law-court-ruling-20150508-story.html#page=1). 11 May 2015.

Korecki, Natasha. “State Supreme Court pension ruling provides political cover to cut more, tax more.” Chicago Sun-Times. 8 May 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/7/71/590030/state-supreme-court-pension-ruling-provides-political-cover-cut-tax). 11 May 2015.

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Chicago-Area Democrats Push To Expand ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban Throughout Illinois

After a federal court upheld an “assault weapons” ban by the City of Highland Park, gun “control” supporters in Chicago’s far north suburbs are trying to expand the ban on these military-pattern semi-automatic rifles throughout the state of Illinois- under the guise of “local control.” Deb McCarver reported on the Illinois Senate Democrats website Tuesday:

In response to a recent federal court ruling in support of Highland Park’s assault weapons ban, state Senator Julie Morrison introduced a measure to restore the right to ban assault weapons to every city and village in the state.

“This is about local control,” the Deerfield Democrat said. “Highland Park decided to protect its citizens by banning assault weapons. Every other city and village in Illinois should have that same right.”

The highly controversial 2013 law that allowed Illinois residents to carry concealed weapons also prohibited local governments from banning assault weapons…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

According to the “synopsis” of Illinois Senate Bill 2130:

the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act. Deletes provision that the regulation of the possession or ownership of assault weapons are exclusive powers and functions of this State. Deletes provision that any ordinance or regulation, or portion of that ordinance or regulation, that purports to regulate the possession or ownership of assault weapons in a manner that is inconsistent with the Act, shall be invalid unless the ordinance or regulation is enacted on, before, or within 10 days after the effective date of Public Act 98-63 (July 9, 2013). Deletes provision that any ordinance or regulation described in the stricken provision enacted more than 10 days after the effective date of Public Act 98-63 is invalid. Effective immediately…

This Tuesday I noted something Robert McCoppin reported on the Chicago Tribune website April 28. From his piece:

A federal court Monday upheld Highland Park’s ban on assault weapons — possibly setting the stage for a showdown over the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court…

Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson said he was confident the law could be overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court, but the National Rifle Association would have to decide whether to make a costly appeal.

“The Second Amendment is about the right to keep and bear arms,” Pearson said. “The government doesn’t get to pick the list.”

After Senator Morrison’s action- supported by Highland Park Mayor and Democratic candidate for Congress (10th Congressional District) Nancy Rotering (as evidenced later on in that McCarver piece)- don’t be surprised if an appeal is now launched by pro-gun rights forces- costs be damned.

As for Highland Park, which is making a strong bid for wrestling away the title of “Ground Zero for Gun ‘Control’” from Oak Park, Illinois, these days, I suspect they could be on the hook for some astronomical legal fees after all is said and done.

You can track the status of SB2130 on the Illinois General Assembly website here.

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

Source:

McCarver, Deb. “Morrison: Illinois should let cities ban assault weapons.” Illinois Senate Democrats. 5 May 2015. (http://www.illinoissenatedemocrats.com/index.php?option=com_tag&task=tag&tag=sb2130). 7 May 2015.

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Illinois’ Largest Foreign Trading Partners Weigh In On State’s Attractiveness For Investment

Illinois blog readers might be interested in the following, which appeared on the State of Illinois home page earlier this week:

In order to obtain an independent assessment of Illinois’ competitiveness, the Governor’s office asked the state’s largest foreign trading partners to share their confidential views on Illinois’ attractiveness for investment from their countries

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The survey focused on ten nations, and the findings were posted on the state’s website along with this accompanying memo:

From: John DeBlasio, Director for International Trade and Investment
To: Interested Parties
Date: May 4, 2015
Subj: Key Reforms Needed to Strengthen Foreign Direct Investment in Illinois

In order to obtain an independent assessment of Illinois’ competitiveness, the Governor’s office asked the state’s largest foreign trading partners to share their confidential views on Illinois’ attractiveness for investment from their countries.

Collectively, these nations have invested tens of billions of dollars in factories, warehouses, office buildings, and transportation facilities across America, and employ hundreds of thousands of American workers. They are in a unique position to compare the relative strengths and weaknesses of individual states with which Illinois must compete. Every year they make important decisions on where to locate major new facilities and high-paying jobs. Their comments taken together create a policy roadmap of strategic recommendations that we can use to drive powerful new economic growth and job creation in our state.

Attached are the letters, memos, and priorities the Governor’s Office has received, with names, locations, and specific stories redacted to protect the confidentiality of individual countries. The letters deserve to be reviewed in detail, but some of their key comments are highlighted below:

“Top Concern: tax issues-too high, property & corporate, worries about further increases due to financial condition of the state”
• “There are large (and growing) perceptions that infrastructure improvements are not keeping up”
• “Foreign firms place a premium on opportunities to “cluster” – to work with concentrations of talent in their sector”
• “The plethora of universities, research institutions & accelerators headquartered in the region constitute a significant positive – firms and entrepreneurs are drawn here by the world-class innovation taking place”
• “Chicago is attractive to college students – which therefore enhances the quality of the workforce pool”
• “Vast difference in perception between Chicago and downstate Illinois. While the former has plenty of positives, the latter is not seen to be competitive with Indiana, Wisconsin, etc.”
• “Costs in particular linked to Unions are high. It’s a problem, especially with Wisconsin and Indiana as neighbors – if there is a legal dispute with workers….Cook County is known for being anti-boss or pro-employee”
• “Right to Work is being used by other states to position them favorably compared to Illinois. This is similar to other labor market regulations and workers compensation, unemployment insurance levels, etc. that put Illinois at a disadvantage compared with other states”
• “The manufacturing workforce is aging and vocational training for the next generation of skilled employees is lacking”
• “Chicago is one of the most expensive trade show locations in the world. Being an expensive/bureaucratic trade show location often carries over to the state being perceived as a high cost/bureaucratic location for investing”
• “Illinois overseas offices are primarily focused on exports not investment attraction, which is two very different tasks”
• “Many states have modernized their structure by founding Economic Development Corporations tasked specifically with pursuing investors”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Sifting through the trading partners’ letters and memos which contained remarks on foreign investment in Illinois, this one from so-called “Nation #3” stood out:

Even (redacted) companies have a high degree of ignorance about Chicago and the region and rarely see beyond Capone and Jordan

High crime rates- hugely amplified internationally. Chicago is seen as the crime capital of the USA

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Crime capital of the USA” I get. Jordan too. But Capone? Really?


“F**k that, I’m going to Vegas!”
Scene From Chicago Overcoat (2009)
(Warning: Language, violence, “Chicago Typewriter” in all its glory)
YouTube Video

You can read more on that survey from Governor Rauner’s office here (.pdf format) on the State of Illinois website.

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

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Highland Park, Illinois, ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban Latest

Back on December 23, 2013, I blogged about the City of Highland Park on Chicago’s far North Shore passing an ordinance banning “assault weapons” within its city-limits at a June city council meeting.

Subsequently, the Illinois municipality was sued for its “assault weapons” ban.

Last week, a federal court rendered a decision on the lawsuit. From the website of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action on May 1:

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision on Monday allowing a Chicago-area gun and magazine ban to stand. Such bans are justifiable, according to the court, merely on the basis that they “may increase the public’s sense of safety.”

The case, Friedman v. Highland Park, was filed in 2013, and sought to invalidate a city ordinance that banned “assault weapons or large capacity magazines (those that can accept more than ten rounds).” Highland Park was one of several Chicago suburbs that hastily enacted municipal ordinances regulating or banning the possession of “assault weapons” before the state’s 2013 concealed carry law preempted home-rule authority to do so.

This week, in a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel upheld the ban. According to the majority opinion, “A ban on assault weapons won’t eliminate gun violence in Highland Park, but it may reduce overall dangerousness of crime that does occur ….” Remarkably, the majority went on to suggest that even if the ban’s incursion on Second Amendment rights had no beneficial effect on safety whatsoever, it could still be justified on the basis of the false sense of security it might impart to local residents. “[I]f it has no other effect,” the majority wrote, “Highland Park’s ordinance may increase the public’s sense of safety. Mass shootings are rare, but they are highly salient, and people tend to overestimate the likelihood of salient events.”

The majority acknowledged that “assault weapons” can be beneficial for self-defense because they are lighter and more accurate than alternative options and can be wielded more effectively by householders. Yet they quickly threw their own logic aside to reassert the city’s interest in reducing perceived risk over the tangible benefits that that modern firearms provide to their owners. “If a ban on semiautomatic guns and large-capacity magazines reduces the perceived risk from a mass shooting, and makes the public feel safer as a result, that’s a substantial benefit,” the opinion argued.

Judge Daniel Anthony Manion dissented from the majority opinion. Manion forcefully and persuasively argued that the ruling opinion is “at odds with the central holdings in Heller and McDonald: that the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home.”

He went on to press the point that only individuals “make the ultimate decision for what constitutes the most effective means of defending one’s home, family, and property.” In stark contrast to the majority, Judge Manion was willing to recognize the constitutional dimensions that individual choice makes in the Second Amendment realm, just as it does with other fundamental rights. “Ultimately, it is up to the lawful gun owner and not the government to decide these matters,” he wrote.

Judge Manion’s reminder that when it comes to our fundamental rights, “The government recognizes these rights; it does not confer them,” cannot be overemphasized. Unfortunately, his colleagues refused to uphold their duty to recognize either the right at stake or Highland Park’s violation of it. Rest assured, however, that your NRA will continue the fight to see that injustice corrected.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Robert McCoppin reported on the Chicago Tribune website on April 28:

A federal court Monday upheld Highland Park’s ban on assault weapons — possibly setting the stage for a showdown over the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court…

Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson said he was confident the law could be overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court, but the National Rifle Association would have to decide whether to make a costly appeal.

“The Second Amendment is about the right to keep and bear arms,” Pearson said. “The government doesn’t get to pick the list.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Stay tuned…

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

(Editor’s note: Permission to reproduce this piece granted by the NRA-ILA)

Source:

McCoppin, Robert. “Appeals court upholds Highland Park assault weapons ban.” Chicago Tribune. 28 Apr. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/highland-park/news/chi-assault-weapons-ban-highland-park-20150427-story.html). 5 May 2015.

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Chicago’s Financial, Job Woes Highlighted In Huffington Post Piece

Chicago-area readers are probably getting sick of my negative posts about Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois. I don’t like blogging about all the bad news either. However, I feel compelled to point out the massive challenges facing the city, county, and state I was born in and continue to love in an attempt to help turn them around (unlikely at this point), or at least assist residents survive these entities slamming into that proverbial brick wall (much more probable).

That being said, this past weekend I came across an interesting article about a number of Chicago’s woes by local journalist Hilary Gowins. While there’s plenty of dreadful material being written about the “Windy City” these days, what made Gowins’ piece particularly “interesting” is where it can be found- on The Huffington Post website. From the often left-leaning (in my opinion) online news aggregator and blog:

Behind a veneer of affluence, gilded by the prosperity and staying power of neighborhoods such as the Gold Coast, River North and Lincoln Park, the city’s foundation is crumbling beneath the weight of perilous debt. Chicago and its sister governments are officially on the hook for more than $32 billion in unfunded pension debt. With just over a million households in the city, that staggering figure means each Chicago household is on the hook for $32,000 to cover these liabilities. Chicago’s pension debt exceeds the state’s total proposed operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

At the same time the city’s obligations are skyrocketing, its population is growing at a snail’s pace, gaining just 6,000 residents in 2013 after a decade of population decline. With 2.7 million residents as of 2013, Chicago’s population is the same as it was in 1920

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Gowins added this as well:

But today, despite activity on the tech front, job opportunities are scarce. The Chicago area has 46,000 fewer people working compared to before the Great Recession, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

There’s plenty of people around these parts who would be quick to blow smoke up your behind and tell you the economy in Chicagoland area and beyond is in full-blown recovery, and quit worrying about the larger financial picture.

Sorry, but the numbers (such as the above) show otherwise.

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

Source:

Gowins, Hilary. “Chicago’s Problems Run Much Deeper Than a 76-foot Hole.” The Huffington Post. 1 May 2015. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hilary-gowins/chicagos-problems-run-muc_b_7131348.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592). 5 May 2015.

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Chicago Warned By Moody’s About Pension Liabilities

In early April, Standard & Poor’s warned the City of Chicago:

If the city doesn’t find structural solutions, a downgrade of more than one notch is possible.

In our view, if the city fails to articulate and implement a plan by the end of 2015 to sustainably fund its pension contributions, or if it substantially draws down its reserves to fund the contributions, we will likely lower the rating.

Now Moody’s has fired a shot across the city’s bow in 2015. From their Global Credit Research unit on Friday:

Chicago’s (Baa2 negative) pension plans face an uncertain future. Statutes that govern the city’s pension funding requirements have come under legal and political fire, particularly during the last year, as pensioners, politicians, taxpayers and investors have questioned the laws’ constitutionality and affordability, Moody’s Investors Service says in a new report.

Regardless of the ultimate answers, one outcome is certain: Chicago’s unfunded pension liabilities and ongoing pension costs will grow significantly, forcing city officials to make difficult decisions for years to come.

If current laws stand, Chicago’s annual pension contributions are projected to increase by 135% in 2016; by an average annual rate of 8% in 2017-21; and by an average annual rate of 3% in 2022-26.

The 2016 increase alone equals a significant 15% of the city’s 2013 operating revenue, Moody’s says in “Chicago’s Pension Forecast — Tough Choices Now or Tougher Choices Later.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Touch Choices Now or Tougher Choices Later.” That pretty much sums up the situation not only in the “Windy City,” but in the state of Illinois as well.

Blame Emanuel? Blame Rauner? Whatever. As is if these guys have been around long enough to help put Chicagoans and Illinoisans in their respective financial messes.

You can read the rest of the Moody’s news release on their website here.

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

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Marc Faber Recommends Equities, Real Estate, Precious Metals To Counter Stock Market Plummet

Swiss-born investment advisor/money manager Marc Faber was on the CNBC TV show Trading Nation yesterday. Speaking by phone, the publisher of the monthly investment newsletter The Gloom Boom & Doom Report reminded viewers of the stock market correction he’s been predicting for some time now. Dr. Faber said:

I think that the market is in a position where’s it’s not just going to be a 10 percent correction- maybe first goes up a bit further. But when it comes it will be 30 percent or 40 percent minimum.

Famous for advising clients to get out of the U.S. stock market one week before the October 1987 crash and for predicting the 2008 global financial crisis, Faber added:

I’m not short the market yet.

Nevertheless, it sounds like the “crash prophet” is prepared. “Dr. Doom” shared with viewers:

I don’t want to be 100 percent in cash for the simple reason that I don’t trust governments, and I don’t trust banks. So I want to own some equities, I want to own some properties, and I want to own some precious metals. And when we talk about stocks, the only group that stands out as great value around the world are gold mining shares.

Faber went on to talk about gold stocks more in-depth.


“Marc Faber talks protection strategies”
CNBC Video

Later on in the show, Dr. Faber added:

If I look at the ignorance of central bankers, and their recklessness of printing money from the U.S. to the ECB to Japan to the Bank of England, I want to own some precious metals.

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: U.S. Headed For ‘Major Economic Crisis’ Centered On Dollar

Euro Pacific Capital CEO/Chief Global Strategist Peter Schiff appeared on CNBC World Monday. Schiff, who correctly-called the housing bubble/crash and financial crisis late last decade, warned viewers:

What people have to understand, is because of the Fed and their prior policy mistakes of keeping interest rates at zero, of all this quantitative easing, they have screwed up this economy so badly, that if the Fed were to raise interest rates at any point, they would precipitate a worse financial crisis than the one they caused in 2008. And so we’re not going to get a rate hike, no matter what they say. We’re going to get QE 4, and the next crisis is going to be a dollar crisis…

I think without another dose of QE the bubble is going to pop and we’ll be back in recession. And so to prevent that from happening, and to postpone the day of reckoning, we will get QE 4…

And if you look at the enormity of the debt on the federal balance sheet, on corporate balance sheets, look at real estate prices, the banking sector. You know, all those banks that we’re too big to fail in 2008 are much bigger now than they ever were and they’re very susceptible to even a slight increase in interest rates, which is why the Fed won’t raise them. But you’re right- it’s not going to go on for another six years. We’re going to have a major economic crisis center around the U.S. dollar long before that six-year time period can expire.


“FOMC Rate Hike Hints are a Bluff”
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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Chicago Magazine Article On Area Preppers

This morning I read an article on the Chicago Magazine website that focused on Chicago-area preppers- particularly those in the suburbs. Rod O’Connor spoke to preppers residing in Downers Grove, Glenview, and on the North Side for his piece, in which he observed:

The prepper movement has climbed out of the bunker and established itself, quietly, along affluent streets in Chicago, its suburbs, and beyond…

The article is a pretty good read. Finding it difficult to get a suburban prepper to interview, O’Connor wrote:

Preppers are, not surprisingly, a paranoid bunch. Locating people willing to speak with me about their habits was more challenging than finding vegans at a gun range…

Obviously, a little bit of discretion with such matters goes a long way in protecting preppers and their loved ones in a SHTF scenario. But O’Connor also needs to realize that preppers are only too familiar with the numerous hack-jobs perpetrated by the mainstream media at their expense.

From my experience, it’s rare that these individuals are given a fair shake by the press. Instead, ignorance, inherent bias, and sensationalism often shine through in the various MSM articles/segments.

By the way, if you do read the piece on the Chicago Magazine website, I penned the following comment in response to a blanket claim by another commenter that preppers are “selfish” and “paranoid”:

A popular misconception. As a regular observer of the prepping “movement,” there’s no shortage of preppers who have adopted a “give until it hurts” mindset when it comes to helping out neighbors/strangers in a poop hits the fan scenario. It’s discussed often in various prepper forums (“What should I be stocking up for my neighbors/others?” and “What’s the best way to get my neighbors/others food and supplies without putting myself and loved ones in danger?” are pretty common questions). In addition, those in public safety might disagree with the notion that preppers as a whole are “selfish.” In a neighborhood-wide or larger emergency, police, fire, and other public safety agencies might not have to aid citizens (preppers) that had the foresight and follow-through to prepare for such an incident, thereby freeing up responders to help others in the community who for some reason or another weren’t prepared. Selfish? How about carrying out their civic duty? Like “L O” points out, Ready.gov and other emergency preparedness-related government initiatives implore Americans to sock away at least 72 hours of emergency food, water, and other supplies. When it comes to prepping, plenty of practitioners look at it this way. Americans insure their health, their vehicles, their residences, etcetera. Why not insure one’s standard of living, at least as best one can in a significant emergency/disaster? Not such a “paranoid mindset” if you ask me.

Like I said, the Chicago Magazine article is a decent read- particularly if you’re from the Chicagoland area. You can view the entire article on the publication’s website here.

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

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Proposed Triton College Shared Police Training Facility Moves Forward

Chicago-area readers may remember me blogging last summer about future concealed-carry classroom and range instruction possibly being offered at a proposed shared police training facility at Triton College, a two-year community college located in west suburban River Grove. I wrote on July 2, 2014:

And here’s something I caught on the Forest Park Review website from earlier this June that might interest local law enforcement and nearby residents seeking concealed-carry training. Jean Lotus reported:

Interest is growing among 23 Triton College feeder communities for a shared police training facility and shooting range hosted at the River Grove campus.

The community college recently sent a survey to police chiefs and village managers in 25 different towns asking about a possible shared facility, and almost all of them responded that they were open to discussing the possibility…

The current proposal is a “tactical training facility” located on the Triton campus with a state-of-the-art 24-position shooting range…

Training on judgment laser shooting and pursuit driving were just some of the requests made by survey respondents.

Lotus added:

Sixty-four percent of the departments surveyed also asked for mock streetscape technology. Other suggestions were leadership training, firearms training from a vehicle, felony traffic stop scenarios, water-based courses, tactical room entry, building searches and rapid deployment training.

[Forest Park Mayor Anthony] Calderone pointed out Triton could even do concealed-carry training for civilians

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Well, Deborah Kadin published this update on the Review website on April 7:

An idea that sprang last summer from conversations between three area village presidents is nearing reality as a number of communities are assessing whether to join in to pay for a state-of-the-art regional shooting range at Triton College.

Draft copies of an intergovernmental agreement, which spells out construction and operating costs as well as many other details about the facility, went out near the end of March to 14 likely participants, including Forest Park, River Forest, Oak Park and Riverside. Triton College also will be taking part…

The range being contemplated is a 6,160-square-foot facility with eight shooting lanes. The cost is estimated at $2 million and will be funded through a bond issue paid off over 20 years…

Looking over the draft intergovernmental agreement (.pdf auto-download starting p. 261- hat tip Village of River Forest), under “6. Additional Usage”:

Triton College may, based upon demand and available funding, offer training courses as required under the Illinois Firearm Conceal Carry Act, 403 ILCS 66/1 et seq. In the event such classes are offered, all firearms and ammunition shall be provided, housed and maintained on site. No member of the public shall be permitted to bring a personal firearm on the Triton College campus. All fees collected for such classes shall be allocated in a manner that first all College costs are recovered and any remaining funds shall be paid toward the maintenance of the Premises…

Outside of Triton concealed-carry instruction for members of the public- I’m assuming that’s why “No member of the public shall be permitted to bring a personal firearm on the Triton College campus” was inserted where it was in the draft IGA (though I could be mistaken)- access by the general public is restricted. From that draft:

At no point shall the Premises be made available for public usage or public training sessions.

Stay tuned…

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

Source:

Kadin, Deborah. “Costs tallied for Triton shooting range.” Forest Park Review. 7 Apr. 2015. (http://www.forestparkreview.com/News/Articles/4-7-2015/Costs-tallied-for-Triton-shooting-range/). 23 Apr. 2015.

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Polls Show Americans More Optimistic On Economy

Despite the significant financial challenges this country faces, a number of Americans seem to be more optimistic about the economy going forward. Jeffry Bartash reported on the MarketWatch website yesterday:

Even though U.S. growth slowed sharply in the first quarter, Americans are more optimistic about the economy now than at any time since President Obama took over the White House in January 2009.

A new CNN poll shows that 52% of Americans view the economy as “very” or “somewhat” good vs. 48% who call it “poor” or “somewhat poor.”

It’s only the second time a majority have expressed a positive view during the Obama presidency — the first time was in December — and it is the highest reading in almost eight years. The last time Americans were as optimistic was in September 2007

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

In addition to that CNN poll, a recent Bloomberg Politics poll suggests the American public is more positive about the economy and how Barack Obama and the Democrats are handling it. Margaret Talev wrote on the Bloomberg website last week:

Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes may be buoyed by a more optimistic feeling about President Barack Obama and the economy seen in a new Bloomberg Politics poll.

Americans are becoming more optimistic about the country’s economic prospects by several different measures. President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy is being seen more positively than negatively for the first time in more than five years, 49 percent to 46 percent—his best number in this poll since September 2009

Thirty-four percent said the national economy will become stronger over the next year, while just 21 percent said it will get worse and 44 percent predicted the status quo. That’s up from last June, when 30 percent said things were getting better…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Finally, Myles Udland noted in an April 17 piece on the Business Insider website:

Consumer confidence is soaring.

The preliminary reading on consumer confidence from the University of Michigan came in at 95.9, topping expectations for a reading of 94.0.

This is the second highest reading since 2007…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


National Recovery Administration, The Road Is Open Again (1933)
YouTube Video

I’m not sure where all this optimism is coming from. After all, the nation’s economic woes which reared its ugly head by the fall of 2008 have merely been papered over and kicked down the road a few years.

Meanwhile, the Fed depleted plenty of ammunition (see “About” page Fed charts) keeping the whole setup afloat.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s probably not a bad idea to take advantage of this upsurge in confidence to try and improve one’s resilience to a financial crash I still see coming.

Each person’s circumstances are different. But I, for one, have been focusing on meeting those six “innate survival needs” from my “Project Prepper” series of posts- among other things like increasing income. To recap, those “needs” are:

• Security
• Water
• Food
• Shelter
• Sanitation and Health
• Energy

In order of priority- for me.

Hopefully, these can be taken care of before the “balloon goes up.”

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

Sources:

Bartash, Jeffry. “American optimism about economy highest since Obama became president.” MarketWatch. 21 Apr. 2015. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/american-optimism-about-economy-highest-since-obama-became-president-2015-04-21). 22 Apr. 2015.

Talev, Margaret. “Bloomberg Politics National Poll Finds Improving Economic Mood.” Bloomberg.com. 16 Apr. 2015. (http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-04-16/bloomberg-politics-national-poll-finds-improving-economic-mood). 22 Apr. 2015.

Udland, Myles. “Consumer confidence soars to second-highest level since 2007.” Business Insider. 17 Apr. 2015. (http://www.businessinsider.com/university-of-michigan-consumer-confidence-2015-4). 22 Apr. 2015.

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Niles Gun Shop, Range Lawsuit Decision Next Month?

Chicago-area firearm enthusiasts- here’s the latest regarding that proposed gun shop and range at 6143 Howard Street in northwest suburban Niles. Igor Studenkov reported on the Chicago Tribune website on Monday:

The fate of a lawsuit a Skokie-based gun control advocacy group filed against the village of Niles will be decided next month.

People for a Safer Society filed a lawsuit against the village on Oct 17, 2014, over the Village Board’s decision to grant a special use permit to Sportsman’s Club gun shop and firing range. In its lawsuit, the group sought to not only annul the permit, but to prohibit the village from granting a permit for any gun shop that wants to open on that piece of land.

In response, the village’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit altogether.

Judge Franklin Ulyses Valderrama was originally scheduled to decide whether to grant the motion on April 14. But after listening to attorneys for both sides, he decided to take some time to consider it, and said he will issue a final decision May 14

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Regular readers may recall I’ve been following the Niles gun shop/range story since June of last year. Not surprisingly, the proposed facility encountered obstacles early on.

That being said, a concealed-carry training facility- Concealed Carry Safety for Personal Defense Inc– was able to open its doors last year in the near-northwest suburb.

Good luck to the Village of Niles and 6143 Howard Partners Inc/Sportsman’s Club and Firearms Training Academy in May.

You can read Studenkov’s entire piece (nice legal roundup) on the Tribune website here.

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

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