Government

Cook County Residents To Get Hit With Tax Hikes Soon?

For a while now (last time being earlier this week), I told my girlfriend we were lucky to have escaped the fiscal debacle and revenue grab going on in the city of Chicago.

At the same time, I pointed out that as Cook County residents we’re still on the hook for the same type of nonsense.

Brian Slodysko reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website yesterday afternoon:

Hoping to ward off another credit rating downgrade, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Wednesday that she will soon present a plan to reform the county’s underfunded pension system.

And she’s leaving the door open to hiking property, sales and other taxes.

When asked repeatedly about the possibility of tax increases, Preckwinkle responded: “We’re looking at all the options. Everything is on the table.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Slodysko added later in the piece:

Preckwinkle declined to discuss specifics, but she did say that any plan that goes before the Legislature will not have property tax increase language written into the bill

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Okaaay… so that means Preckwinkle’s not “leaving the door open” to hiking property taxes?

Regardless, based on what I see coming down the line for us, it’s only a matter of time.

Last summer, Cook County saw its bond rating lowered by one of the major credit rating agencies supposedly due to its public pension liabilities. I blogged on August 20, 2013:

In the wake of significantly downgrading the City of Chicago’s credit rating, bond credit rating giant Moody’s Investor Service lowered Cook County’s bond rating a notch last Friday. In a news release from the Moody’s website right before the weekend:

New York, August 16, 2013 — Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the rating on Cook County’s (IL) general obligation (GO) debt to A1 from Aa3, affecting $3.7 billion of general obligation debt. The outlook remains negative.

SUMMARY RATING RATIONALE

The downgrade of the GO rating reflects Cook County’s growing pension liabilities…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Stay tuned…

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

Source:

Slodysko, Brian. “Preckwinkle won’t rule out tax increase to strike pension deal.” Chicago Sun-Times. 9 Apr. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/preckwinkle-wont-rule-out-tax-increase-strike-pension-deal/wed-04092014-523pm). 10 Apr. 2014.

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Reports: Chicago Manipulating Crime Statistics

“Downgrade and reclassify.”

It’s something I’ve heard leveled against the City of Chicago with increasing regularity since I started this blog in 2010.

I really became aware of it from reading the popular Chicago police blog Second City Cop.

From a July 24, 2013, post:

Again, here is where CompStat really shines. Reclassify the crimes from “Strong Arm Robbery” to “Theft from Person” and –tada!!!– Instant drop in violent crime. You don’t think they’re doing it? How about those juveniles that got caught the other day? The one had another smart phone and was charged with “Theft of Lost/Mislaid Property” probably because no one could identify who committed the actual robbery. Or the lack of police that is emboldening the robbers? If someone has to wait an hour for a police report, they might as well head home and do it over the phone….or not do it at all. –Tada!!!— another drop in crime!

Downgrade and reclassify? That’s just tin-foil hat talk, right?

Apparently not.

David Bernstein and Noah Isackson wrote on Chicago magazine’s website yesterday:

Chicago conducted a 12-month examination of the Chicago Police Department’s crime statistics going back several years, poring through public and internal police records and interviewing crime victims, criminologists, and police sources of various ranks. We identified 10 people, including Groves, who were beaten, burned, suffocated, or shot to death in 2013 and whose cases were reclassified as death investigations, downgraded to more minor crimes, or even closed as noncriminal incidents—all for illogical or, at best, unclear reasons.

This troubling practice goes far beyond murders, documents and interviews reveal. Chicago found dozens of other crimes, including serious felonies such as robberies, burglaries, and assaults, that were misclassified, downgraded to wrist-slap offenses, or made to vanish altogether. (We’ll examine those next month in part 2 of this special report.)

Many officers of different ranks and from different parts of the city recounted instances in which they were asked or pressured by their superiors to reclassify their incident reports or in which their reports were changed by some invisible hand. One detective refers to the “magic ink”: the power to make a case disappear. Says another: “The rank and file don’t agree with what’s going on. The powers that be are making the changes.”

Granted, a few dozen crimes constitute a tiny percentage of the more than 300,000 reported in Chicago last year. But sources describe a practice that has become widespread at the same time that top police brass have become fixated on demonstrating improvement in Chicago’s woeful crime statistics

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Two words come to mind here about these claims:

Truly disturbing.

The alleged manipulation of crime statistics goes beyond downgrading, reclassifying, and fudging.

Frank Main and Stefano Esposito reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website yesterday:

About one-quarter of victims of aggravated assault and battery failed to get counted in Chicago Police statistics for 2012, according to a city Office of the Inspector General report released Monday.

That’s because police didn’t count each person in a crime involving multiple victims as a separate offense, the inspector general’s office said.

The audit reviewed a sample of 383 assault-related incident reports out of a total of 83,480 for 2012.

Because of the findings, Chicago Police officials have agreed to review every aggravated assault and battery in 2012 and 2013 — and count each victim…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Remember, Chicago isn’t due to release the second part of its special report until next month.

If I were certain Chicago Police Department brass, I’d be seriously concerned about my job right now, as this developing situation looks to be a major blow to what credibility the City still has left with residents and others.

I know one thing. From now on, every time a City official brings up crime statistics, eyes will be rolling… long after heads may have due to this debacle.

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

Sources:

Bernstein, David and Isackson, Noah. “The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates.” Chicago. 7 Apr. 2014. (http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/May-2014/Chicago-crime-rates/). 8 Apr. 2014.

Esposito, Stefano and Main, Frank. “Chicago Police underreported number of 2012 aggravated assault and battery, audit finds.” Chicago Sun-Times. 7 Apr. 2014. (Chicago Police underreported number of 2012 aggravated assault and battery, audit finds). 8 Apr. 2014.

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U.S. Security Experts Wary Of American Fighters Returning From Syrian Civil War

Back on December 2, I blogged:

I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the U.S. homeland is attacked once again by Al-Qaeda (major operation), an affiliate, or sympathizers.

Complicating matters is the potential for radicalized Americans and European Union member state passport-carrying jihadists fighting in Syria’s civil war soon being part of this fray…

These radicalized foreign fighters were the focus of a piece that appeared on the International Business Times (UK) website Sunday. Tom Porter reported:

Experts have warned that a terrorist attack by jihadists returning radicalised from the war in Syria is “inevitable”.

It is believed that hundreds of British citizens have fought in the three-year Syrian conflict, with many taking up arms for Islamist groups.

Some have posted videos online, boasting of their exploits.

There are growing fears among security services that returning fighters with combat experience are poised to launch terrorist attacks in the UK. The Telegraph reports that around 250 Syria veterans may be back in the country.

Ahead of a discussion on Syrian fighters at Chatham House this week, Raffaello Pantucci, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, spoke of the growing danger.

“It seems almost inevitable that some sort of a threat back to the UK will come off the battlefield in Syria, something supported by the fact that security services in the UK believe they have already disrupted at least one plot with links to Syria,” he told the Independent on Sunday.

Last year, security forces are reported to have foiled a Mumbai-style plot, involving killing civilians with guns in central London, which involved Syria veterans

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Even though Porter talked about the U.K., Syrian Civil War veterans who fought alongside Islamists will also be returning to the United States.

And U.S. security experts are wary of them.

Henry Austin and Charlene Gubash reported on the NBC News website back on February 15:

Foreign fighters returning home to the U.S., Britain and other countries after honing their skills in Syria’s civil war are posing a “nightmare for security services,” experts and officials say.

About 11,000 people have crossed into Syria seeking to help topple President Bashar Assad’s regime – including about 60 who are believed to have traveled from America. However, many have now been left disillusioned by bitter infighting between rival rebel groups and some have given up their weapons and returned to the West.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson earlier this month said that the U.S. government was “very focused” on the issue of militants returning to the country.

“Based on our work and the work of our international partners, we know individuals from the U.S., Canada and Europe are traveling to Syria to fight in the conflict,” he added.

Raffaello Pantucci, a senior research fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute think tank, said recent history shows that “battlefields that have Sunni jihadist ideology have produced some sort of a threat.”

“It’s not true to say that all of those returning from Syria will come back and be a terrorist threat,” Pantucci added. “Perhaps a couple of them will, which makes it a nightmare for security services to track.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Some suspect Muslim extremists have been trying hard to recruit Western Caucasian members for some time now to use in terrorist operations against the United States and its allies in the “War On Terror.”

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

Sources:

Porter, Tom. “Experts Warn of ‘Inevitable’ UK Terror Attack By Returning Syria Jihadis.” International Business Times. 6 Apr. 2014. (http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/experts-warn-inevitable-uk-terror-attack-by-returning-syria-jihadis-1443631). 7 Apr. 2014.

Austin, Henry and Gubash, Charlene. “Syria’s American-Born Rebels Pose National Security ‘Nightmare’.” NBC News. 15 Feb. 2014. (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/mideast/syrias-american-born-rebels-pose-national-security-nightmare-n29451). 7 Apr. 2014.

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Chicago Public Pension Crisis Latest

Last Tuesday, I blogged about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attempt to address some of the City’s public pension woes via larger contributions by City employees and $50 million tax increases for five straight years- beginning next year and continuing through 2019- for Chicago property owners.

There’s been a lot of chatter regarding this proposal and other pension “reform” activity today. Karen Pierog reported on the Reuters website:

Legislation to ease funding shortfalls in two of Chicago’s four retirement systems is a modestly positive credit step but not a permanent fix, Moody’s Investors Service said on Monday

Moody’s said that if enacted into law, the measure would immediately reduce the unfunded liabilities in the two funds.

“However, we expect that the (liability) would then escalate for a number of years before declining. Accrued liabilities would exceed plan assets for years to come, and if annual investment returns fall short of the assumed 7.5 percent, the risk of plan insolvency may well reappear,” the credit rating agency said in a report…

After breezing through an Illinois House committee on April 2, the bill has stalled. Moody’s said that even if the bill makes it out of the legislature, Governor Pat Quinn must sign it. The law would then face potential challenges to its legality under the Illinois constitution, which prohibits the impairment of retirement benefits for public sector workers…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So will the Illinois Governor and fellow Chicago Democrat sign off on Mayor Emanuel’s proposed legislation?

John Byrne and Monique Garcia reported on the Chicago Tribune website this afternoon:

Gov. Pat Quinn today came out against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to raise Chicago property taxes and cut retirement benefits as a way to shore up some of Chicago’s government worker pension systems.

The re-election seeking Democratic governor called the bill floating around Springfield “a sketch” that “kept changing by the hour” and blasted the property tax as a “lousy tax” because it is not based on the ability to pay…

“I don’t think that’s a good way to go,” Quinn said of hiking property taxes. “And I say it today and I’ll say it tomorrow, they’ve got to come up with a much better comprehensive approach to deal with this issue. But if they just think they are going to gouge property tax owners, no can do. We’re not going to go that way.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Now, as I pointed out in last week’s post about Chicago’s public pension crisis:

There’s still a state-required $600 million contribution due next year from the City to stabilize police and fire pension funds that this proposed property tax hike doesn’t address and has to be dealt with…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Plus, I read the following this morning by Chacour Koop on the website of The State Journal-Register (Springfield):

After addressing Illinois’ own employee pension crisis, lawmakers now face an equally challenging task with the state’s cities, as mayors demand help with underfunded police and firefighter pensions before the growing cost “chokes” budgets and forces local tax increases.

The nine largest cities in Illinois after Chicago have a combined $1.5 billion in unfunded debt to public safety workers’ pension systems. Police and fire retirement funds for cities statewide have an average of just 55 percent of the money needed to meet current obligations to workers and retirees…

The problems — a history of underfunding, the expansion of job benefits and the prospect of crushing future payments — mirror those that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel warned about when he asked the legislature for relief last week.

In 2016, state law requires cities to make required contribution increases — in some cases, more than an additional $1 million annually — so they’ll reach 90 percent funding by 2040. If they don’t, the state will begin doing it for them, diverting grant money now used by cities elsewhere directly into the pension funds…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Just like the Illinois General Assembly- dominated by Democrats- barely passed legislation on December 3, 2013, that was touted as a “fix” for the state’s $100 billion public pension crisis (it isn’t), something tells me an accommodation may be reached with fellow Democrats running the City of Chicago so they don’t have to pay the full amount of the state-required $600 million contribution due next year to stabilize police and fire pension funds.

That goes for those large Illinois communities as well.

Watch all the back-patting go on should that “fix” materialize as well.

And the inevitable “blowback” down the road.

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

UPDATE: From Fran Spielman over on the Chicago Sun-Times website early Tuesday morning:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and House Speaker Michael Madigan Monday stripped out controversial language from city pension legislation that had authorized the City Council to impose a property-tax hike, putting the stalled measure back on the fast-track at the state Capitol.

Madigan, D-Chicago, filed an amendment to Senate Bill 1922 after the House adjourned Monday without taking any action on the stalled legislation. Sources now expect the legislation to be voted upon as early as Tuesday.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Sources:

Pierog, Karen. “UPDATE 1-Proposed Chicago pension changes positive step but no fix -Moody’s.” Reuters. 7 Apr. 2014. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/07/usa-chicago-moodys-idUSL2N0MZ1AP20140407). 7 Apr. 2014.

Byrne, John and Garcia, Monique. “Quinn blasts Emanuel’s property tax hike for pensions.” Chicago Tribune. 7 Apr. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/chi-quinn-blasts-emanuels-property-tax-hike-for-pensions-20140407,0,5432729.story). 7 Apr. 2014.

Koop, Chacour. “Illinois’ next pension issue: Police, firefighter funds.” Associated Press. 6 Apr. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140406/NEWS/140409562/-1/json/?tag=1). 7 Apr. 2014.

Spielman, Fran. “Analysis: Rahm’s pension bill revisions solve—and create—problems.” Chicago Sun-Times. 8 Apr. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/analysis-rahm%E2%80%99s-pension-bill-revisions-solve%E2%80%94and-create%E2%80%94problems/mon-04072014-728pm). 8 Apr. 2014.

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Another Quote For The Week

One more QFTW to ponder as the work week kicks off:

I think the American people should know that the members of Congress are underpaid. I understand that it’s widely felt that they underperform, but the fact is that this is the board of directors for the largest economic entity in the world.

-U.S. Representative Jim Moran (D-VA 8th District), in an interview last Thursday with CQ Roll Call

Members of Congress make $174,000 a year and have their travel and work-related expenses covered by American taxpayers.

Gallup reported back on March 10 that only 15 percent of Americans approve of the overall job Congress is doing.

Perhaps other elected representatives to Congress who think along the same lines as the departing Moran should make way for aspiring civil servants willing to make sacrifices when it comes to salary and terms served. After all, from what I understand, I don’t think it was the intention of the Founding Fathers for citizens to make a career out of serving in the national legislature- which is exactly what a number of these politicians are doing.

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

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Resource Of The Week: StartPage Private Search Engine

I don’t know about you, but I’m incredibly concerned about privacy going extinct in America.

Not that I engage in any criminal activity. I just tend to be a private person by nature.

And I think anything that can be done to reinforce and strengthen whatever privacy citizens still have left in the United States is a terrific thing.

Now let me take a selflie.

Enter StartPage, billed as “the world’s most private search engine.”

From their “About” page:

StartPage protects your privacy!

StartPage does not collect or share any personal information!

StartPage offers you Web results from Google- the world’s most popular search engine.

When you search with StartPage the Web results are generated by Google. This offers you the search results and search features you may have grown accustomed to.

A Unique Combination

On StartPage the privacy of Ixquick is combined with the Web search results from Google. The combination of these two features is what makes StartPage so special.

You can continue using the Web results from the world’s most popular search engine but now under the privacy protection of Ixquick, the world’s most private search engine…

At the bottom of the search engine’s home page there’s a box proclaiming:

Take a deep breath. You’re safe here.

Click here to learn the top 10 ways StartPage protects your privacy.

The “top 10 ways” include:

1. StartPage doesn’t store your IP address, use tracking cookies, or make a record of your searches…

2. StartPage protects you from NSA surveillance and spying…

3. StartPage gives you 100% real Google results in complete privacy…

4. StartPage is a Dutch company, so it is not under US jurisdiction…

5. StartPage offers a free proxy with every search…

6. StartPage is third-party certified for privacy…

7. StartPage has been doing privacy longer than anyone else – since way before privacy was “cool”…

8. When it comes to security, StartPage runs the tightest ship on the Internet…

9. StartPage breaks you free of the search engine “Filter Bubble”…

10. By using StartPage, you send a powerful pro-privacy message in the marketplace…

I’ve been using StartPage for a while now ever since my girlfriend introduced it to me some time back. It’s very good.

The only issue I have with the search engine is that it doesn’t seem to bring up as many results as Google does.

Still, it’s a lot more private.

Give StartPage a try here.

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

(Editor’s note: Link added to “Resources” page)

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Signs Of The Time, Part 74

Any readers know who Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez is?

He was the young man charged with the attempted assassination of U.S. President Barack Obama back in November 2011 when he fired shots at the White House. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the attack.

The other day, I spotted this on the legal news site LawyerHerald.com. A staff writer reported Tuesday:

According to a Bloomberg report, an Idaho man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to firing an assault rifle at the White House from his car. 23 year-old Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez admitted to shooting at the White House from his car. His lawyers claimed in a memo to presiding US District Judge Rosemary Collyer that their client has the misguided idea that his action would make the public aware that an Armageddon is coming and that Ortega-Hernandez has no intention to hurt anyone nor President Barack Obama…

Ortega-Hernandez’s lawyers had asked Collyer to hand down only a 10-year jail sentence for their client…

According to the memo submitted to Collyer for a reduced sentence, Ortega-Hernandez allegedly fell under the influence of survivalists following a childhood where he has been living in many places and saw his parents separated…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Ah, it was the survivalists’ fault.

Apparently, Judge Collyer didn’t buy that argument.

But it was only a matter of time before someone demonized preppers/survivalists again after the Sandy Hook shootings.

Remember what was being said back then about one of the first victims of the violence- Nancy Lanza? I blogged on December 17, 2012:

I’ve come across two more web articles that don’t paint the modern survivalist movement in a positive light.

In fact, some might argue they’re attempting to connect prepping with the Sandy Hook school shootings.

From The Telegraph (UK) website yesterday:

Connecticut school shooting: Adam Lanza’s mother was preparing for disaster

The mother of the gunman who killed 20 children and seven adults in America’s worst school massacre, was a gun-proud “survivalist” preparing for economic collapse, it has emerged.

Nancy Lanza, whose gun collection was raided by her son Adam for Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook school, was part of the “prepper” movement, which urges readiness for social chaos by hoarding supplies and training with weapons.

“She prepared for the worst,” her sister-in-law Marsha Lanza told reporters. “Last time we visited her in person, we talked about prepping – are you ready for what could happen down the line, when the economy collapses?”

And then there’s this from The Independent (UK) site this morning:

Mother of Sandy Hook school gunman Adam Lanza was a ‘prepper’ survivalist preparing for economic and social collapse, say reports

Friends and family have portrayed Mrs Lanza as a paranoid ‘survivalist’ who believed the world was on the brink of violent collapse.

“Paranoid.” Regrettably, preppers and survivalists should expect more of the same from the establishment politicians, their “presstitutes,” and low-information supporters going forward.

Whereas I- not a prepper but gleaning ideas and knowledge from them- see these individuals for the most part as simply wanting to carry on with their lives and look after themselves, loved ones, and friends in the event of an emergency or disaster.

Did I mention that by their actions they free up police, fire, and other public safety agencies to attend to those who for some reason or another failed to prepare for a major crisis?

Paranoid, or actually patriots?

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

Source:

“Court hands out a 25-year prison sentence on White House shooter.” Lawyer Herald. 1 Apr. 2014. (http://www.lawyerherald.com/articles/5175/20140401/court-hands-out-a-25-year-prison-sentence-on-white-house-shooter.htm). 4 Apr. 2014.

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Where Illinois Ranks In U.S. On Key Indicators In 2014 Compared To 4 Years Ago

“A state of distress”

That’s what the Chicago Tribune had at the top of an opinion piece that was published last Sunday on their website (was also in the Sunday paper too).

And it pretty much sums up what’s going on in Illinois when a comparison of where the state ranks nationally on various indicators is made to just a short four years ago.

From the Tribune on March 30:

Is Illinois better off in 2014 than it was four years ago? In 2010 we pored over a virtual library of statistics to assess where Illinois stood relative to other states and produced a chart much like this one. Today we replicate that exercise as closely as the data permit, with comparisons to Illinois’ national stature in 2010. By economic and jobs measures, Illinois has fallen further. By some education metrics, Illinois has improved. Our kids are still chubby…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Areas looked at included:

• Economy and Jobs
• Governance
• Health
• Education
• State of Mind

The word most often used by the paper to describe how they now stand in comparison to four years ago?

“Worse”

It’s an insightful- yet disturbing- read, which you can find here on the Tribune website.

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

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Friday, April 4th, 2014 Education, Employment, Government, Health No Comments

Venezuela Food Shortages Give Rise To Registration

In the 2008 film The Hurt Locker, there’s a part where the main character, a U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) specialist, returns home. While shopping for groceries, he becomes overwhelmed by the enormity of choices and amount available for purchase…


“The Hurt Locker- grocery store scene”
YouTube Video

It was a humorous yet sobering reminder of the abundance of food in our society.

At least for now.

Compare that to present-day Venezuela, where food shortages are becoming a serious problem. From the Associated Press on Tuesday:

Battling food shortages, the Venezuelan government is rolling out a new ID system that is either a grocery loyalty card with extra muscle or the most dramatic step yet towards rationing in Venezuela, depending on who is describing it.

President Nicolás Maduro’s administration says the cards to track families’ purchases will foil people who stock up on groceries at subsidised prices and then illegally resell them for several times the amount. Critics say it’s another sign the oil-rich Venezuelan economy is headed toward Cuba-style dysfunction.

Registration begins at more than 100 government-run supermarkets across the country on Tuesday and working-class shoppers – who sometimes endure hours-long queues at the stores to buy cut-price groceries – are welcoming the plan…

Rigid currency controls and a shortage of US dollars make it increasingly difficult for Venezuelans to find imported basic products such as milk, flour, toilet paper and cooking oil.

In January, more than a quarter of basic staples were out of stock in Venezuelan stores, according to the central bank’s scarcity index. The shortages are among the problems cited by Maduro’s opponents who have been staging protests since mid-February…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

I feel bad for the Venezuelans that these shortages are taking place.

At the same time, it’s a good reminder for Americans that prepping for hard times isn’t all about socking away just guns and gold.

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

Source:

“Venezuela tackles food shortage with ID card system.” Associated Press. 1 Apr. 2014. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/01/venezuela-food-shortage-id-cards). 3 Apr. 2014.

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Must-Watch Speech: Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke On Responsibly-Armed Americans

Heading north past the state line, Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr., is in the headlines again. Sheriff Clarke’s name may ring a bell with regular readers of Survival And Prosperity due to a memorable Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office PSA he recorded around the beginning of 2013. I blogged back on January 27, 2013

North of “Madiganistan,” there’s a new ad being aired on the radio:

I’m Sheriff David Clarke and I want to talk to you about something personal- your safety. It’s no longer a spectator sport- I need you in the game. But are you ready? With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option. You could beg for mercy from a violent criminal. Hide under a bed. Or you can fight back. But are you prepared? Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there. You have a duty to protect yourself and your family. We’re partners now. Can I count on you?

This safety message brought to you by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office.

At a recent United States Concealed Carry Association Open House Event held in West Bend, Wisconsin, Sheriff Clarke spoke of that PSA and subsequent ones, including the support and disdain he received from them. Clarke told the USCCA open house audience:

I got tired of seeing the Second Amendment becoming the bastard child of the Bill of Rights. As far as I’m concerned, the Second Amendment is as important as the First Amendment, it’s as important as the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures, it’s as important as the Fifth Amendment right to counsel, it’s as fundamental as the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and on and on and on.

And but for the Second Amendment, the other ones are not possible.

Because what leads to despots in our history- you first disarm people, you gain control of the media.

That gives rise to despots. And that’s the importance of an armed citizenry…

It’s a terrific speech about responsibly-armed Americans, which you can watch in its entirety (less than 15 minutes) below…

“Gutsy Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Delivers Unforgettable Speech at USCCA Event”
(Speech from 2:46 to 17:07)
YouTube Video

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

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Poll Of Illinois Voters: 89% Feel Political Corruption Somewhat Common In State

I don’t talk about the topic too often, but political corruption was the focus of a recent poll taken by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute down at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. From a press release Monday:

Illinois Voters: Political Corruption “Common” In Our State

Overwhelming majorities of Illinois voters believe political corruption is the norm for both federal and state governments, according to the latest poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

Fewer people believe political corruption at the local level affects their lives – unless they live in Chicago.

The poll of 1001 registered voters across the state conducted Feb. 12 -25 has a margin for error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The survey found:

• 89 percent of Illinoisans feel corruption is somewhat common in the state, with 53 percent believing it’s very common.

• 79 percent say corruption at the federal level is at least somewhat common, with 45 percent saying it’s very common.

• 62 percent of all Illinoisans believe county or city political corruption is at least somewhat common, with 35 percent reporting local corruption to be very common.

° However, 85 percent of those living in Chicago believe county or city political corruption is at least somewhat common, with 55 percent perceiving local corruption to be very common.

“These are sad numbers,” said David Yepsen, Director of the Institute. “No wonder many people don’t vote and participation in civic affairs seems limited. It’s unhealthy for a society to have such little confidence in the integrity of government. It makes Illinois an unattractive place to live.”

“It makes Illinois an unattractive place to live.”

That it does, Mr. Yepsen. That it does.

Note that bit about Chicago.

Back on February 4, 2012, I blogged:

This afternoon I was running errands around the Chicagoland area when I heard on WBBM Newsradio 780 that a new study showed Chicago is the most corrupt city in the nation. From the CBS Channel 2 Chicago website:

A former Chicago alderman turned political science professor/corruption fighter has found that Chicago is the most corrupt city in the country.

He cites data from the U.S. Department of Justice to prove his case. And, he says, Illinois is third-most corrupt state in the country

University of Illinois professor Dick Simpson estimates the cost of corruption at $500 million…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Truly, a sad state of affairs.

You can read the entire press release (.pdf format) from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute on their website here.

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

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Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 Corruption, Government No Comments

Peter Schiff: No Recovery, Just An Illusion Of Prosperity

I first started paying attention to Euro Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff just prior to picking up his book Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse (now Crash Proof 2.0, second edition) shortly after its early 2007 release. While some of the calls he made in that controversial text are still playing out, others have already come to fruition.

Subsequently, Schiff has been given credit for correctly-calling the U.S. housing bubble and its burst, and the 2008 global economic crisis.

Being one of Survival And Prosperity’s “crash prophets,” his latest investment recommendations are chronicled on this blog. As are his economic analyses and forecasts as well.

Here’s a recent breakdown of what Schiff sees going on with the U.S. economy and larger financial system, courtesy of a March 21 commentary entitled “Debt and Taxes” that’s posted on his Euro Pacific Capital website:

The last few years have proven that there is no line Washington will not cross in order to keep bubbles from popping. Just 10 years ago many of the analysts now crowing about the perfect conditions would have been appalled by policies that have been implemented to create them. The Fed has held interest rates at zero for five consecutive years, it has purchased trillions of dollars of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities, and the Federal government has stimulated the economy through four consecutive trillion-dollar annual deficits. While these moves may once have been looked on as something shocking…now anything goes.

But the new monetary morality has nothing to do with virtue, and everything to do with necessity. It is no accident that the concept of “inflation” has experienced a dramatic makeover during the past few years. Traditionally, mainstream discussion treated inflation as a pestilence best vanquished by a strong economy and prudent bankers. Now it is widely seen as a pre-condition to economic health. Economists are making this bizarre argument not because it makes any sense, but because they have no other choice.

America is trying to borrow its way out of recession. We are creating debt now in order to push up prices and create the illusion of prosperity. To do this you must convince people that inflation is a good thing…even while they instinctively prefer low prices to high. But rising asset prices do little to help the underlying economy. That is why we have been stuck in what some economists are calling a “jobless recovery.” The real reason it’s jobless is because it’s not a real recovery! So while the current booms in stocks and condominiums have been gifts to financial speculators and the corporate elite, average Americans can only watch from the sidewalks as the parade passes them by. That’s why sales of Mercedes and Maseratis are setting record highs while Fords and Chevrolets sit on showroom floors. Rising prices to do not create jobs, increase savings or expand production. Instead all we get is debt, which at some point in the future must be repaid

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Which at some point in the future must be repaid”

Good luck trying to get your average American in 2014 to wrap their head around that crucial concept.

Once again, I agree with Schiff’s observation of what is going on all around us.

“Illusion of prosperity” is a fine choice of words here, and makes sense that I find a fine economic blog by the same name good reading.

As certain as the “Big One” will eventually hit California, so must our nation’s “financial reckoning day” arrive for all this debt we’ve accrued for some short-term “prosperity.”

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

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

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Chicago Wakes To Proposed Property Tax Hike On April Fool’s Day

Many Chicagoans probably wish what’s being widely-reported in the local news this morning about a proposed property tax hike is just a silly April Fool’s joke.

It’s not.

Fran Spielman wrote on the Chicago Sun-Times website last night:

Chicago property owners will face $250 million in property tax increases over five years while city employees make increased pension contributions that will cost them at least $300 more a year, under landmark reforms unveiled Monday…

The new revenue the mayor had promised only after pension reform will come in the form of $50 million property tax increases for five straight years, beginning next year and continuing through 2019.

Top mayoral aides estimate that would cost the owner of a home valued at $250,000 with an annual property tax bill of $4,000 roughly $58 more or $290 over the five-year period. That’s on top of expected increases for the Chicago Board of Education and Chicago Park District…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

A couple of thoughts here:

First off, is anyone really surprised this is happening?

Regular readers of this blog shouldn’t be.

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

I’ve been squawking this for quite some time now.


“Black Dynamite- Who saw that coming?”
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Second, a $250,000 home? When discussing a Chicago Board of Education property tax hike last August, I blogged:

$230,000? You’d be hard-pressed to find a home for that little money in my former stomping grounds on the Northwest Side.

The same holds true for a $250,000 one (especially if it’s a property big enough for a family and doesn’t require a ton of work).

Which means many of my old neighbors will be coughing up significantly more than just $58 annually/$290 over five years as a result of this proposed hike.

And they already pay a big chunk of change to the City’s coffers.

Third, Spielman added last night:

The bottom line, according to Emanuel, is a plan that spreads the burden between employees, retirees and homeowners without raising property taxes so high that it triggers a mass exodus to the suburbs…

“Mass” being the key word here, because an exodus has already started. Former Chicago residents who have awakened to the “writing on the wall” are moving to the suburbs (yours truly included), leaving Cook County, and departing the state.

The push to make “temporary” personal and corporate income tax hikes permanent and the pursuit of class warfare in the form of a proposed millionaire tax hike by the ruling political party in the city, county, and state certainly don’t help the situation either.

Fourth, I can’t stand when tax hikes are proposed despite the lack of significant belt-tightening. Think the City of Chicago is as lean-and-mean as it possibly can be with its operations and set-up?

As long as 50 aldermanic wards exist, I’d argue no.

Fifth, as it stands right now, there’s still a state-required $600 million contribution due next year from the City to stabilize police and fire pension funds that this proposed property tax hike doesn’t address and has to be dealt with. Hal Dardick an Bill Ruthhart reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

But the proposal the mayor and his top aides outlined late Monday would not address huge pension shortfalls for Chicago police, firefighters and teachers. Nor would it deal with the city’s most immediate, pressing financial problem: a state requirement to pay a whopping $600 million more toward police and fire pensions next year, a provision that could lead to a combination of tax increases, service cuts and borrowing

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You read right. Possibly more “tax increases, service cuts and borrowing” coming down the line shortly for Chicago residents.

Stay tuned…

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

Sources:

Spielman, Fran. “Pension deal pinches city workers and taxpayers.” Chicago Sun-Times. 31 Mar. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/exclusive-pension-deal-pinches-city-workers-and-taxpayers/mon-03312014-821pm). 1 Apr. 2014.

Dardick, Hal and Ruthhart, Bill. “Emanuel’s pension fix: Shrink benefits, raise taxes.” Chicago Tribune. 1 Apr. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-rahm-emanuel-pension-property-tax-increase-met–20140401,0,1662095,full.story). 1 Apr. 2014.

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Quote For The Week

“The world is not going to be saved by legislation.”

-William Howard Taft (10th Chief Justice, 27th President of the United States)

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

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Illinois Millionaire Tax Moves Out Of Committee, Goes To House For Vote

This Monday, I blogged about Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) pushing for an income tax hike on the estimated 13,000 or so millionaires residing in the state.

The proposed legislation is making progress in the Democrat-controlled Illinois General Assembly. Doug Finke reported on The State Journal-Register (Springfield) website last night:

An Illinois House committee Thursday signed off on a measure that would allow voters to decide if millionaires should pay more in state income taxes…

The committee voted along party lines to approve the proposed constitutional amendment by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, that would impose a 3 percent surtax on incomes above $1 million. Income up to $1 million would continue to be taxed at the state’s personal income tax rate, currently set at 5 percent…

The proposed amendment now goes to the full House, which must approve it by a three-fifths vote. The Senate will then have to approve it by the same margin for the issue to appear on the November ballot

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Opponents of the tax hike claim it not only unfairly penalizes successful residents of the state, but hurts everyone else in that it may drive away wealth from Illinois.

Speaker Madigan’s response? He was quoted by the Chicago Tribune last Friday as saying:

Well, if they’re in Illinois today, they’re probably so much in love with Illinois that they’re not going to leave.

Eye-roll please…

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

Sources:

Finke, Doug. “Millionaire tax amendment advances to House; progressive income tax rejected.” The State Journal-Register. 27 Mar. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140327/NEWS/140329457/-1/json/?tag=2). 28 Mar. 2014.

Garcia, Monique, Long, Ray, and Zurich, Maura. “Illinois Democrats go all-in on class warfare theme.” Chicago Tribune. 21 Mar. 2014. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-21/news/chi-speaker-madigan-proposes-asking-voters-to-raise-taxes-on-wealthy-20140320_1_tax-hike-bruce-rauner-income). 24 Mar. 2014.

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